The first time I personally spoke to Cherry Creek baseball coach Marc Johnson, it was to ask a rather unique favor.

We were putting together an issue of Mile High Sports Magazine, and the general theme was, “What’s it Like?”

What’s it like to snowboard off a cliff, what’s it like to throw a no-hitter, stuff like that. So editor-in-chief Doug Ottewill comes to me and says, “I want to know what it’s like to face Major League heat. Actually, I want to know what it’s like for you to face Major League heat.”

Quickly deducing that Cherry Creek was the baseball program most likely to roster players throwing well over 90 mph, that was the program to try and work with.

Getting Marc’s number wasn’t a problem (shoutout Garrett Duman), but convincing him that a 27-year-old magazine writer who hadn’t competed in any kind of organized sport in a decade was ready to face the Bruins’ fastest fastball was going to take some work.

I was able to appeal to Marc because I had two brothers who played for his summer and fall programs. Marc didn’t know Dan Mohrmann enough to give the idea any thought, but maybe he would consider it for Noel and Gerard’s brother.

“Do you have health insurance,” he asked me over the phone.

Once that issue was resolved he threw me into a batter’s box with now-Minnesota Twins pitcher Griffin Jax. For anyone wondering, at 27 or even now at 40, I’m not touching Jax’s fastball.

But this isn’t about that.

That experience was my first interaction with Johnson, but it would be far from my last. The all-time winningest high school baseball coach in Colorado history and I crossed paths on many occasions as I became entrenched full time into the preps world.

Without being prompted, he would often ask about my brothers. When I would call him for an interview for a feature, he made a point of telling me how much he appreciated my work and what it meant for high schools athletes. Not his high school athletes, but all high school athletes.

My impact is minimal compared to Johnson’s. Microscopic, even.

And today, his time as an impact-making head baseball coach comes to an end. Today is the last time we all wake up to a world where Johnson is the baseball at Cherry Creek. It’s been that way since 1973.

In his time as Cherry Creek’s coach, he’ll have played in 15 state championship games. After today, he could be a nine-time champion. He could stand pat at eight.

Either way, the conclusion of the Class 5A baseball championship game or games is going to be emotional for a lot of people.

I found myself watching the 3A games in Greeley with my mind drifting to Cherry Creek as I saw they were on the verge of advancing to Saturday’s showdown against Regis Jesuit. There is a genuine part of me that is irritated that I didn’t place myself as the 5A writer this spring. But I also have faith in Matt Meyer and I know that his ability to execute a plan in telling a story will make our coverage of all the championship games better.

I think Marc would muster a smile at that realization.

When he announced his retirement earlier this year, everyone was quick provide his resumé as a teacher, coach, husband, father and human being. I did both on this website and in the pages of Mile High Sports Magazine.

So I don’t want to do it again.

He has 800-and-I-can’t-keep-track-because-he-kept-on-winning victories to his name, more than anybody else in state history. He has coached more than a handful of future Major League players and probably hundreds of kids who went on to play the game in college.

But what you don’t see on a resumé is the role he played in developing kids into upstanding adults. Teenagers always need guidance and anyone who plays for Johnson gets life guidance in the form of baseball.

When he sees former players, they never talk to him about winning or state championships or anything like that. They always talk about being a part of something that cultivated their growth as humans. They came to value playing a role in a machine that was bigger than any one player.

“We don’t talk about championships,” Johnson told me matter-of-factly after he announced his decision to retire in October.

And he doesn’t. He simply wants to get the very most (and maybe a little bit more) he can out of every player in his program. If he’s able to do that, winning takes care of itself.

That philosophy combined with his love and knowledge of baseball would have made him a great candidate to coach at Metro, Mines, CSU-Pueblo, UCCS and maybe even Northern Colorado (his alma mater) or the Air Force Academy.

“I think God planned for me to work with 17 and 18-year-olds,” Johnson told me.

It’s where he would have the biggest impact. Anyone who has spent any time around him in the last 51 years would know that.

Forget Todd Helton or Larry Walker. Marc Johnson is Mr. Baseball in Colorado.

And as he steps on the diamond for the final time today, there are thousands of people who have one clear message for him.

Thank you.