Wednesday, January 20, 2010
#590) MARK JOHNSON
Mark Johnson joined the New York Mets when he signed as a free agent on February 22, 2000. The former starting quarterback for Dartmouth College had been playing in Japan with the Hanshin Tigers in order to stay in the game the previous season. While in New York the natural first baseman found himself also serving as a pinch-hitter and reserve outfielder. To further complicate matters he was also often splitting time between the Triple-A Norfolk Tides and the Mets. Mark's batting average of .407 in pinch-hitting situations (11 for 27) lead all the major leagues during the 2001 season. "Baseball's a game of timing." Johnson explained, "If you are not getting consistent at-bats, it's tough to keep your timing. You're basically just going up there and trying to put the ball in play." He was able to do more than just make contact in a reserve role. His two-run pinch-hit home run on April 24, 2002 was a game winner facing the St. Louis Cardinals, and one of six total he hit that season in limited duty.
Mets fans saw more of Johnson during the winter of 2002 than they might have at Shea Stadium. Although without a contract to return for the season, Mark participated in many of the charity functions the Mets organized. A free agent at the time and searching for other opportunities he remained loyal to New York. "I think it kind of gave away my hand as far as my intentions," Johnson said, "but, I think I made it clear all along that I wanted to stay."
He would start the season with the Mets in 2002, and struggle to find time at first base with Mo Vaughn receiving the bulk of the playing time. His intense pre-game drills were never overlooked by Manager Bobby Valentine when he stated, "No one works harder than Mark." He ended the season with the Norfolk Tides and retired from baseball after that. "It just seemed like the right time." Johnson explained, "I wanted to embark on the second part of my life, and wanted to do it while I was still young."
After baseball Mark, who had graduated with a degree in psychology from Dartmouth, became a Vice President and Senior Institutional Sale Trader at Sanford Bernstein & Company in New York.
Mark Johnson signed his card in the set from an autograph request sent to his home in January 2009.