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Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson uses family to balance life as a coach

By Ryan Miller

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, July 8 2014 3:26 p.m. MDT

Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson (left) balances his duties as a coach with spending as much time with his family as possible.

Courtesy Salt Lake Bees

SALT LAKE CITY — On June 21, Salt Lake Bees manager Keith Johnson rushed out of a postgame press conference, ran onto the field, and met his family to watch a fireworks display.

"There's so much of this stuff that drives you crazy a little and it's just an opportunity to grab a little bit of perspective," Johnson said. "To come out and enjoy something with your family and share a moment, it's awesome."

Because of his team's grueling 144-game minor league schedule, such moments are sometimes hard to come by for the Salt Lake skipper. So he takes advantage of them whenever he can.

Johnson is in his fourth season as manager of the Bees. His history with Salt Lake began before he took the reigns of the team. Johnson made a stop in Utah's capital city as a player, playing for the franchise in 2002 and 2003. It was during that time that he met his wife, Malena.

"We met here at the ballpark," Johnson said. "We had a few lunches and some dinners and our relationship kind of took off from there."

Johnson is the father of two kids: Korey Rush, who just started at the University of Nevada on a football scholarship, and 10-year-old Maya. He says being a good father can be a challenge at times during the season.

"In the offseason I'm just Dad," Johnson said. "I take care of everything, but (during the season), even if I'm home, my mind is still on things like, 'How can I help the pitchers get better? How can I help hitters get better? In this situation should I've done something different? Should I have played this guy here?'"

The skipper's mind is hard to turn off, especially when his job is to help his players achieve their dreams. Sometimes his wife has to step in and stop him from working and thinking.

"All the time things continue to go through my mind," Johnson said. "Trying to get these guys to the big league, it's never really off all the way. There's times when my wife makes me turn it off, but when she doesn't do that it's always kind of on."

One reason why he stresses his job so much is the joy he gets seeing his players succeed. Johnson began his managerial career with the Angels' Single-A club Cedar Rapids. There he managed Efren Navarro and Andrew Romine. Years later he got the opportunity of letting those players know they had received their first major league call-ups.

"To be the first manager to be able to tell them that they're going to the big leagues," Johnson said, "guys I have managed since my first year managing and watched their careers come up, I mean that was awesome. It was a great experience and it was a moment I'll never forget, and a moment they'll never forget."

Sometimes, Johnson will break that good news after having a little fun.

Johnson will call in the players to his office and with a stern voice ask, "What did you do at the hotel last night?"

When the player is adequately scared and is confusingly asking, "What are you talking about?" Johnson will break the good news.

A part of a manager's job is to know how to read players and Johnson knows that for some guys the call-up is such a special moment, that has to be a serious moment.

"It's different for everybody. For some guys it's just an an overwhelming feeling, that there's no joking around about it," Johnson said.

The Bees skipper is in his 11th season with the Angels, and like the players that he manages, he hopes to one day be called up to the big league ranks.

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