Davey Johnson enjoying retirement in Holland

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

HAARLEM, Netherlands After three years in retirement, Davey Johnson is pacing the dugout again, shuffling his roster, barking orders and loving every minute of it.

The 60-year-old former major league player and manager, who led the New York Mets to a World Series championship in 1986, is now coaching the Dutch national baseball team as it attempts to qualify for next year's Athens Olympics.

''Being in uniform is always a thrill for me,'' said Johnson, flashing a big grin as he led his team through the European Championships. ''You know, if I was coaching a Little League team, it's the same thrill.''

Johnson calls his team's level of play ''Triple A and rising.'' The favored Dutch moved to 4-0 in the championships with a 1-0 victory over France on Monday. The tournament ends Friday.

''We're struggling, but still winning,'' said Johnson, who managed 14 years in the major leagues, including seven with the Mets. ''We can play a lot better.''

Johnson will also be in the dugout when the Dutch play in the Olympic qualifying tournament in the Netherlands from July 23-27.

''I knew a little bit about Dutch baseball before I came over, but not to the extent of what caliber of ball they were going to play, how fundamentally sound they were,'' he said.

''What's fun for me is to learn about baseball in Europe. I like challenges in my life and this is another challenge.''

Rob Cordemans, the winning pitcher in Monday's game, said it's he and his teammates who are picking up all the pointers.

''Man, he knows so much about baseball. He's been through everything,'' Cordemans said. ''He has so much charisma, tells such good stories.''

Last week, Johnson's team went 8-1 at the WorldPort Tournament in Rotterdam, beating Cuba's national team twice before losing to the Cubans 3-2 in the final.

''They really saved their best pitcher for us for that game, and we didn't do anything special to set up for it,'' Johnson said.

''They bunted on my best defensive player, my third baseman, who'd had a great series, but like a big leaguer a couple of bad hops the ball gets past him, and they score two runs in the first inning.''

Johnson took over the Dutch team after his friend and the previous manager, Robert Eenhoorn, temporarily stepped down to be with his ill son. Eenhoorn played with the Yankees and Angels in the mid-1990s.

''When I heard the circumstances I was emotionally moved, I felt like I had no choice,'' Johnson said. ''I had to do this to help out.''

Just before the WorldPort event, Eenhoorn's 6-year-old son, Ryan, died of cancer.

Johnson also managed the Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers. He played 13 seasons with Baltimore, Atlanta, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs.

Tony La Russa, who manages the St. Louis Cardinals, was unaware Johnson was in Europe but said he has a knack for finding a way to win.

''He's a very intelligent man,'' La Russa said Monday from the All-Star game in Chicago. ''Every place he's gone he's been a winner. He'll make whatever adjustments and he'll do a good job.''

Now that he's back calling the shots, Johnson was asked whether he'd consider a return to the majors or taking over a college team.

''I have a very good life working for the local colleges,'' said Johnson, who lives in Florida. ''I have no plans to come back in a uniform, other than just a coaching capacity, helping young kids learn the game of baseball.''

Then again, he added, ''You never say never.''



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