Johnson takes up offer, makes fan's day

BY foxsports • September 20, 2012

Getting a baseball player to autograph a baseball or T-shirt has always been among the most common sights at a game.

Getting a baseball player to respond to a tweeted invitation to come out of the clubhouse and play a little game of pre-game catch in the parking lot? That's taking it a step further.

But that's what Tampa Bay Rays utility infielder Elliot Johnson did on Wednesday afternoon outside Tropicana Field.

Johnson, according to a report on thebiglead.com, was inside the Rays’ clubhouse prior to his team’s critical third game against the Boston Red Sox.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher for Tampa Bay, which lost its first two contests against the Sox and watched its dwindling postseason hopes continue to shrink.

But the Rays and manager Joe Maddon are renowned for keeping the atmosphere loose in times of trouble.

In fact, Maddon instructed the players to come to the park on the later side, around 6 p.m., and forgo the usual pre-game routines.

You could say that Johnson, known for his fun-loving, gregarious personality, did exactly that when he received a tweet from a Rays fan outside.

On a complete whim, Twitter user @chrisbelltb sent the message while hanging out with a few buddies — he wanted to know if Johnson could come out and play a game of catch in the parking lot.




According to the account, Johnson showed up soon after in his game gear, not wearing a jersey but, most important, carrying a glove and baseball. Turns out that the fan didn’t even have a glove, though he certainly never could have guessed that E.J. would take the bait and show up.

"You’re the first person to ask, and I had nothing going on,” Johnson can be heard saying in the video post of the impromptu catch-and-throw with the bare-handed Bell, who later told the website: “After the game, we were behind the dugout, Elliot spots us and tosses us a few game balls. What a great experience. Elliot couldn’t have been a nicer guy.”

Perhaps fittingly, the evening turned into a great experience for Johnson and just about everyone in the Trop except for the Red Sox and their fans. The Rays routed the Red Sox 13-3, temporarily, giving Tampa Bay a sliver of hope in the Wild Card race.

Of course, Johnson might have opened a can of worms in the process. His Twitter account was filled with reactions from fans Thursday after the story spread on the Internet.

“I’ve gotten plenty of ‘I’m jealous!’ and ‘I wish I would have done something like that’ and ‘when I come into town, I want to do it!’ ” Johnson said with a smile before Thursday night’s series finale with Boston.

“There’s a lot of things that have to go right for something to happen. Obviously, it was the first time anybody’s ever asked me, so I thought it was a good idea. I’m always big on the originality points. It was original, and I had time to do it, so I headed on out there.”

Johnson added one more touch to the unusual tale, sending this tweet to the grateful and surprised Rays fan:


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