Growing up, my mom and dad and my grandparents always drove home the point of surrounding yourself with good people.
As it turned out, I was blessed beyond measure when as a young and impressionable college student, I had the good fortune to play baseball for Tom Chandler and then to be the student sports information director for the Aggie baseball team for Coach Chandler when a young assistant coach joined Coach Chandler’s staff in 1983. Mark Johnson came to Aggieland from Mississippi State and had previously worked with the University of Arizona and had won a national championship in 1976.
When Coach Chandler retired after the 1984 season, a new Aggie graduate was again fortunate to remain as an assistant SID to handle baseball as Mark Johnson took over the Aggie head coaching job on the diamond.
From the season opening 10-1 win against Northeast Louisiana with Tom Arrington on the mound (the baseball media guide ink may have been wet, but at least it was out!) to the 1,000th coaching victory as Sam Houston State defeated UT-San Antonio, 8-6, Mark Johnson has always been among the country’s best baseball coaches.
If influence was judged solely on wins and losses, Coach Johnson would be among the best, but that is just part of the story. Coach Johnson has been such a positive influence on so many baseball players, coaches, media, fans and sports information personnel.
Thanks seems so inadequate when I consider all that Coach Johnson, Linda, Ron and Brian, have done and all that his family has meant to me and my family through the years. My wife, Kaye, and I had a Christian couple in Mark and Linda that modeled how to make a marriage work in collegiate athletics. My oldest daughter Katie still remembers where Linda would sit at Olsen Field so she could go down and get some candy. Kaye was pregnant with our youngest daughter Macie in 1999 as we went to Omaha and the College World Series.
I can still remember driving back from the CoSIDA convention in Nashville, Tennessee, when I got a call from Coach Johnson telling me he was going to become the head coach at Sam Houston State. I was so excited that more young people would have the opportunity to be influenced by his baseball coaching as well as his teaching in the game of life.
You see it is the game of life where Coach Johnson has really excelled and he continues to this day. I have heard people say of Coach Johnson, he is more like a teacher than a coach. But aren’t good teachers just like good coaches? Always there, always caring and someone you can always depend on.
After each baseball season in Aggieland, Coach Johnson would meet with the team. And not just the players, but he would have his SID, trainers, managers and field workers present to say thanks for the hard work and dedication. Regardless if it was a College World Series team, or a team that did not make the playoffs, Coach Johnson would always express his faith and mention hanging around with good folks and good things will happen.
The Good Lord has blessed me so much, but one of the greatest blessings has been to “hang around” one of the all-time greatest coach, husband, father and Christian in Mark Johnson. Other than my parents and grandparents, Coach Mark Johnson is probably the greatest influence on my life and for that I am most grateful.
To Coach Johnson—Go Kats! God Bless and Gig ‘Em
Alan Cannon (aka A.C.)