SALT LAKE CITY — Keith Johnson has a pretty good thing going. Unlike many minor league managers, the skipper of the Salt Lake Bees is a year-round resident of the community where he works.
"It's awesome," Johnson said before Salt Lake's 8-5 loss to Fresno Thursday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark. "Obviously, being in the big leagues is the ultimate coaching position for all of us, but being here, managing here and living here is as close to the big leagues as I can get."
The benefits, he explained, are plentiful.
And it all starts with family.
Johnson and his wife Malena are parents to Korey Rush, a junior at East High School, and 7-year-old Maya, who will be a third-grader next fall. Rush is a multi-sport athlete, while his little sister is a soccer player like her mother. Their collective schedules keep the family busy.
Although there are times when everyone is asleep by the time Johnson gets home from the ballpark, he appreciates being around when things get going in the morning.
"Being able to help my wife out by taking (the kids) to school or taking them to camps or going and watching them play some of their sports throughout the year is a huge plus," Johnson said.
On Thursday, Johnson was among the parents dropping their sons off at the All-Poly football camp in Davis County.
"It was tough, getting him up and trying to get him over there to Bountiful at 7:30 this morning for check in was a little bit of a challenge," Johnson said. "But it's well worth it. For him to have me there — whether he vocalizes it or not — I know he loves it."
It's a two-way street. The other night when the Bees gave up 22 runs in a loss to Colorado Springs, Johnson received a happy greeting and hug from his daughter when he got home.
"It made it a little bit easier," Johnson said with a smile. "Regardless of how good or how bad things are at the ballpark, at the end of the night I'm just daddy."
Win or lose, it's always the same.
"Now that I'm managing here I get to see them a lot more often," Johnson said. "When we have day games, obviously, I get to have dinner with the family. I'm able to cookout and stuff like that."
Helping out with the kids and making things easier for his wife are things Johnson truly values. Several years ago, while making the transition from player to coach, he once went 6 1/2 months without seeing his family.
GAME NOTES: Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans, the reigning NBA slam dunk champion, threw out the ceremonial first pitch . . . The attendance was 8,739 . . . Bees starter Matt Shoemaker took the PCL lead in innings pitched (86 2/3) by making it into the seventh . . . Fresno is the top affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
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