Johnsons balance home life with baseball
ATLANTA -- Though 5-year-old Cole Johnson enjoys the perks of being a suburban Atlanta kid whose father plays for the Braves, he still seems to have a greater appreciation for those days when his dad is home focusing on nothing more than his parental duties.
"Whenever we have a day off or I'm not going to the field, my oldest [Cole] will ask, 'Does that mean you don't have to play baseball ever again?'" Braves utility man Kelly Johnson said. "They still want you home."
Johnson's decision to rejoin the Braves this year has afforded him, wife Lauren and their three young sons -- Cole, Grant and Penn -- a greater appreciation for what it means to truly be home. For the first time, they have had an opportunity to spend the entirety of a regular season living within the Alpharetta, Ga., house that was purchased around the same time the Braves non-tendered Kelly on Dec. 12, 2009. When Johnson awakes on Sunday morning, it will mark the first time he has had a chance to experience Father's Day within this home with his three sons.
"It's a whole different level being at home and having that home base," Johnson said. "Everybody has the same familiarity of having their same beds and all of that kind of stuff. It's definitely a lot easier."
Few understand this better than Johnson, who has played for six organizations since joining the D-backs before the start of the 2010 season. Last year alone, he spent time with the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles. Consequently, the Johnsons spent last season's final two months dealing with the challenge of caring for their sons while living in hotels in Boston and Baltimore.
"My wife earned some medals last year," Johnson said.
Johnson earned his own bonus points on May 2, when he arranged for Cole's baseball team to be on the field when the Braves took the field before a game at Turner Field. Feeding off the thrill of hugging Cole as they stood near the third-base position he manned that day, Johnson homered in the first inning.
"It was awesome," Johnson said. " Running out there, living it up and being able to experience that with all the buddies on his team, it doesn't get any better. I know some guys who have grown up around the game with their fathers, they still have memories of doing things like that."
Just 10 years ago, Johnson, Brian McCann, Jeff Francoeur and Blaine Boyer were recognized as Baby Braves -- the collection of rookies who helped Atlanta win the last of its 14 consecutive division titles.
As they have remained in contact and maintained residences in the Atlanta area, these aforementioned Braves have already started talking about the possibility of placing their kids on the same baseball teams to compete and maybe more importantly, give themselves a chance to experience the thrill of being fathers together.
"It's always great to see your kids with their friend that they meet from school and away from baseball," Johnson said. "But that would give us all a good excuse to continue getting together off the field."