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Johnson in enviable position with Nationals

A lot of big league managers might wish they were in Davey Johnson's shoes.

Johnson, 70, enjoyed a 13-year playing career with the Orioles, Braves, Phillies and Cubs. He was a four-time All-Star, won a pair of World Series rings and three Gold Glove Awards.

Johnson's managerial career has been equally fruitful. He has won a Manager of the Year Award in each league and has a 1,290-997 record. Johnson is also the owner of a World Series ring as a manager (1986 Mets).

And right now, Johnson is behind the helm of a revitalized Washington Nationals team many prognosticators project as the 2013 World Series champions. He's going to do everything he can to prove those predictions correct.

"I think balance, a good offense, good defense, good pitching, good bullpen, [and a] good bench [are all key to winning]," Johnson said. "You have to be consistent with all those things to win.

"You win with 25 guys. A lot of people think you'll only put eight or nine guys out there, and those eight or nine have to play well, but even the 25th guy on your club has to contribute."

Beyond that, Johnson said that the main ingredient in the formula to managing a team is "communicating with [the players] on an individual basis. Know where they're coming from, know their abilities, know what they're thinking. Every day you have to gain their respect and trust, and vice versa. The player has to gain the manager's and coaches' respect and trust."

Johnson also redefines team chemistry, saying the term is often misconstrued.

"You know, everybody misunderstands chemistry," Johnson said. "Chemistry is when 25 guys know their job and they go out there and do a good job. They also know that if they do very well, their job will be expanded. That's chemistry. And it comes with a whole lot of communication. What's expected of them, when it's expected of them and they are mentally and physically prepared to do their job to the best of their ability."

Johnson has plenty of knowledge to impart on not only his players, but his fans as well -- especially the younger set.

"Number one is [to] get an education," Johnson said. "Teach your mind. Go to school. Learn from it. And then take care of your body. Exercise, eating well, getting proper rest. All of those things are important if you want to be a good athlete.

"I am a firm believer in that [with] anything you want, if you want it bad enough, you'll get it. So set your goals high and then strive for them. It works if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, veterinarian, baseball player, basketball player. If you really want it, you'll work for it and you'll get it."

Johnson said that he doesn't often reflect on his past.

"I don't live in the past, nor do I get too far in the future. I live for the day. There are a lot of challenges that go on every day. I'm excited to have that opportunity to deal with them," he said. "Every day is a battle. And every day you got to prove yourself. Today's another day. You got to do it. Today."

"Today" will prove to have added significance for Johnson, who has announced that the 2013 season will be his last as manager.

Starting in 2014, he'll serve as a special advisor in the Nationals organization. It'll be his 54th year in Major League Baseball.

And if that doesn't make Johnson a baseball lifer, I don't know what does.

Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for in the fall of '11.