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Hammock lives dream, catches gem
05/19/2004 12:03 AM ET
ATLANTA -- Robby Hammock couldn't wait to catch Randy Johnson Tuesday night.

Hammock had invited about 50 friends and family members to attend his first Major League game in Atlanta after spending most of his life in the northern suburb of Marietta and graduating from South Cobb High School in 1995.

"Every time you catch him, you feel that something like this has a chance to happen," Hammock said after the 40-year-old Johnson became the oldest pitcher ever to throw a perfect game. "He's so intense, and it's something he has out there on the mound that makes me that much better."

Hammock's experience turned surreal, however, as he thought back to the visit he made to his old school earlier in the day. Students, teachers and coaches wanted to know his greatest thrill since being called up from Triple-A Tucson last year.

"It used to be just putting on the uniform," Hammock said. "But now everything's changed."

Regardless of the direction his career ultimately takes, Hammock knows the Diamondbacks' 2-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves will always be a major highlight. A crowd of 23,381 stood and cheered as Johnson struck out Nick Green and Eddie Perez to end his 117-pitch performance.

Johnson credited Hammock, who became his regular catcher last year, with helping him remain on course to keep hitting 95 mph and higher on the radar gun.

"I only shook him off two or three times," Johnson said. "He called a great game. The thing is he was probably the most excited guy in the clubhouse, and I'm happy for that. He's come a long way."

Told that the five-time Cy Young Award winner had heaped praise on him, Hammock could only smile.

"I'm speechless," Hammock said. "I don't know what to say."

He wasn't alone.

Dugout coach Robin Yount, inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Milwaukee Brewer in 1999, never saw anything like Johnson's performance in a 20-year career that began in 1973.

"I was part of two no-hitters, one against us by Kansas City and Steve Busby and one for us against Baltimore with Juan Nieves," Yount said. "But to see Randy do it was even more remarkable because he's had such an incredible career."

Diamondbacks left fielder Luis Gonzalez, who drove in the winning run in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, considered Johnson's effort as just another historic achievement for the left-hander, who ranks No. 4 on the all-time strikeout list.

"Steve Finley and I were part of a no-hitter that Darryl Kile threw when we were all in Houston," Gonzalez said. "But there's no doubt that for Randy to be out there pitching like that -- well, nothing can compare to Randy."

Finley, who watched the game from center field, couldn't believe the movement of Johnson's pitches.

"Almost nothing went over the middle of the plate," Finley said. "He was hitting the corners all night, but the problem for the hitters was that most of those pitches came in there at 97, 98 and 99 mph."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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