Greg Johns' farewell thoughts on Mariners

December 28th, 2020

SEATTLE -- In my 10 seasons covering the Mariners for, Inboxes have been one of the constants and a nice way to communicate with readers who have questions. But this will be my final Inbox, given this is my final day with Yep, I’m retiring after 41 years in sports writing.

Since I announced my retirement on Twitter last week, a lot of these farewell questions have to do with my own experiences. And while I normally avoid writing about myself, if there ever was a time, I guess this is it! Thanks to all who have followed along over the years. It truly has been an amazing ride.

What are your favorite Mariners memories?
-- Scott H., Kent, Wash.

It’s hard to pick just one, so I’ll go with a Top 5:

  1. Being in Ken Griffey Jr.’s house in Orlando, Fla., with him and his family when he got the call from the Hall of Fame
  2. Being in Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame inductions for both Griffey and Edgar Martinez
  3. Being at Safeco Field when the Mariners clinched the American League West title in 2001 and carried the flag around the infield in quiet celebration shortly after returning to play following 9/11
  4. Felix Hernandez’s perfect game in 2012
  5. Ichiro Suzuki’s final game in the Tokyo Dome

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in your many years as a sports writer?
--Frank F., Corvallis, Ore.

I’ve had the chance to meet some amazing people, which is always a thrill. Getting to shake Muhammad Ali’s hand is something I’ll never forget. The chance to be one of just two writers in Griffey’s house when he got the call from Cooperstown was amazing. I’ve walked 18 holes with Tiger Woods and had the good fortune to cover Super Bowls, Rose Bowls, All-Star Games, MLB and NBA playoff games and Final Fours, which is far beyond anything I dreamed when I started my career covering high school sports for a tri-weekly newspaper in Puyallup, Wash., in 1980.

But if you’re talking just sheer crazy cool, I’ll go with a very unique opportunity I had when the Mariners played in Japan in 2012. In the week prior to the games against the A’s, some of the players had the opportunity to visit different sites and I was lucky enough to tag along with Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Mariners PR director Tim Hevly on an event at a U.S. military base. We wound up getting a Black Hawk helicopter ride over Tokyo, with a pilot who enjoyed showing off the maneuvering capability of his big bird. I’m pretty sure Smoak and Ackley haven’t forgotten that ride either.

Who is your favorite player?
--Alex F., London, England

This is going to sound like a cop-out, and maybe it is. But it is impossible for me to single out one player or even a handful of players from my years covering the team. I’ve been treated very well and had good, professional relationships with almost every player over the years, which I think speaks highly of the Mariners organization as well as MLB players in general.

If you’re talking about favorite players just to watch, it was obviously a joy to watch Griffey play. And from an opposing view, it seems like every time I see Mike Trout face the Mariners, he’s doing something special.

Any funny locker room moments you can share now?
--Nate J., Spokane, Wash.

From a personal standpoint, I will always get a kick out of the time in 2012 in the visiting clubhouse in Oakland when – for some reason I still don’t fully comprehend – Mariners catcher Miguel Olivo decided in the course of a lighthearted pregame conversation to show me how you could use a towel for self-defense if needed. Next thing I knew, Olivo had the towel wrapped around my neck and was prepared to display the proper way to do a choke hold before I convinced him that wasn’t a lesson I really needed.

Who has been your favorite Mariner to interview over the years? Anyone have a surprising amount of personality that doesn’t show up on TV?
--Evan W., Marysville, Wash.

The one guy who really jumps out was shortstop Brendan Ryan, who livened up some pretty rough years from 2011-13. Ryan was probably the only guy I’ve interviewed who would sometimes say, “That wasn’t a very interesting answer, was it? Let me try that again.”

Of all the Mariner rebuilds, how is this one the most promising?
--Ben G., Seattle

This is the first time I’ve really seen the Mariners go through a full rebuild, to be honest. In the past, they always tried to build around their veterans, as opposed to really tear it down and rebuild with young prospects. The difference now is that they don’t have a payroll already largely tied up by big-money vets on the downside of their careers. If their elite prospects develop as hoped, they’ll now start out with a young nucleus and have the financial flexibility to bring on key veterans when the time is right.

I really, truly believe the Mariners are going to win multiple World Series championships in the 2020s. Am I crazy?
--Peter J., Portland, Ore.

Well, you are definitely an optimist!

What current Mariner is most likely to be an MLB manager?
--Derek P., Seattle

I think Braden Bishop has the leadership qualities and personality to pursue that sort of career once his playing days are done, if he wants.

What’s next for you, Greg? What will retirement look like?
--Tim A., Battle Ground, Wash.

I’ve asked myself that quite often in the last few weeks! I’m very much looking forward to having more time to enjoy life without work hanging overhead and to spend more time just being a dad, grandpa and husband. I’ll definitely continue watching the Mariners -- and all sports -- and will relish the ability to just enjoy games and then turn off the TV or head home from the park without having to work! I look forward to traveling with my wife once the pandemic passes and, if the right situation arises, maybe there’s a book to be written somewhere down the line. Who knows?

What I do know is I’ve truly enjoyed the chance to write and interact with so many people over the past 41 years. And I thank you all for being part of that journey with me.