Former Washington Nationals Manager Davey Johnson has a message to professional athletes invited to the White House: Don't turn down an invitation from the president.
“You are an American first,” he tells ABC News “Powerhouse Politics” podcast hosts Jonathan Karl and Rick Klein, “It shouldn’t be political.”
Several high-profile athletes, including Steph Curry – who said he wanted nothing to do with President Trump – and Tom Brady, who blamed "family matters" – have turned down invitations to join their championship-winning teams at the White House. It's a phenomenon that's not new to the Trump era: Michael Jordan skipped a team trip to the George H. W. Bush White House (he cited a busy schedule) and Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas boycotted a visit in 2012 because he disagreed with President Barack Obama's policies.
Johnson, who takes pride in having played golf with President Bill Clinton and attending a White House dinner with President George W. Bush, says a White House invitation is an honor that should not be taken lightly.
“Baseball is not about politics, it’s just about going out and enjoying the game,” Johnson says of his experience managing a team in the nation’s capital in comparison with managing teams elsewhere, such as the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Games at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., are often a "who's who" of the political world, including Supreme Court justices, leading Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and high-profile media figures. Johnson says when they come to the game, they put aside politics.
“You don’t think about politics you just think about baseball,” Johnson says about the unifying nature of professional baseball in the nation’s capital.
Johnson recounts his historic experiences with Major League Baseball, including leading the New York Mets to a World Series title in 1986 and taking the Nationals to the playoffs for the first time in 2012 in his new book: "My Wild Ride in Baseball and Beyond."
“It’s for a great cause,” Johnson says of his new book. saying the proceeds will be going to his wife, Susan Johnson’s nonprofit organization, Support Our Scholars.
Johnson hopes his book will give aspiring baseball managers inspiration and insight as to what goes on behind the scenes of major league baseball from a managerial perspective.
In addition to the memories and advice to the future of baseball managers, Johnson discusses the highly controversial decision that ultimately ended the first postseason run of the Washington Nationals in 2012: taking ace Stephen Strasburg out of the equation to ensure his full recovery from Tommy John surgery.
“I didn’t really believe in it because I believe the more you throw the stronger you’re going to be,” Johnson tells Karl and Klein, “it definitely hurt us. I thought we had a lot of momentum going on and we could go further.”
As far as predictions for the current season, Johnson believes the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees will go head to head in the 2018 MLB World Series.
Editor's note: Anna Karl is the daughter of Jonathan Karl and, like her father, is a dedicated Nats fan.