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Marc Johnson was standing near the left-field foul line answering questions, and it didn't take long to understand why he is still coaching baseball at Cherry Creek High School.
It's for the love of the game.
On a recent afternoon, he stopped several times as the Bruins were starting practice to stress to pitchers the importance of throwing strikes, to tutor outfielders on drop steps and to remind a shortstop on knowing the arm strength of outfielders.
"I still love working with kids," he said. "They are fun to work with and they still listen. They try hard."
Johnson, 72, is in his 45th season as head baseball coach at Creek. He also served for 23 as boys soccer coach.
He is on a Colorado coaching longevity list that includes Denver East and Machebeuf football legend Pat Panek (52 years), Denver Christian basketball coach Dick Katte (48 years), Dove Creek football coach Kenneth Soper (46 years), Heritage and Columbine wrestling mentor Ray Barron (46 years) and Eaton baseball coach Jim Dantley (46 years), who is now an assistant at Littleton. Only Barron and Johnson are active head coaches.
"I've been very blessed having the community and administration we have," Johnson said.
Johnson went into this season with 751 coaching victories, so the success ratio works in his favor. The Bruins have captured eight state championships, been the runner-up five times, a final four team in 22 springs and have earned 29 league titles.
"There are obviously a lot better players today," Johnson said. "They're stronger, bigger and faster. Sometimes the baseball IQ isn't any better. We work every day on baseball IQ stuff.
"Obviously the first state championship in 1983 was memorable. That 1995-96 team when we started that run of five straight state championships was a huge time. That was our heyday."
Filling out lineup cards, strolling to the mound and prepping fields after unpredictable spring storms will continue to be part of Johnson's life.
"I've always said this: As soon as the kids don't relate any more and as soon as the kids aren't happy, I'll know its time," he said. "I'm not going to go anywhere until I feel it is time or the school says it's time. I still absolutely love it.
"For me, I don't golf or fish because I'm so immersed in baseball. When I do give it up, I'm going to have to learn to fly fish or do something. Coaching is obviously something I love. One thing, I've gotten more tolerant than I was when I was younger. You kind of have to shift with the culture a little bit."
Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303-566-4083.
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