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College Baseball

Jack Del Rio once had cup shattered by Randy Johnson fastball

randy-johnson-bird

There are stories and then there are stories. A yarn Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio recently spun about Randy Johnson from his college baseball career is one humdinger of a tale.

Del Rio recently conducted an interview with Sports Illustrated’s Austin Murphy when he recalled how Johnson, already a lanky flamethrower, shattered his athletic cup after he got crossed up on a pitch while serving as Johnson’s catcher.

The two were teammates on the USC baseball team when the following nightmarish scenario played out, as told by Del Rio and reported by Murphy.

As a catcher he backstopped the fireballing future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. During one memorable game at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, Del Rio recalls, Johnson “crossed me up. I call curveball, he throws fastball, and I take one in the cup. Shatters it.”

After writhing on the ground—“I’m in agony, sweat’s pouring off me, their fans are razzin’ me”—he rose and stayed in the game.

Frightening stuff. After all, we’ve seen what a Johnson fastball can do to a bird, imagine the damage it could inflict upon … well, you know.

Interestingly, before starring in both baseball and football with the Trojans, Del Rio selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round (550th overall) in the 1981 amateur draft straight out of high school. Del Rio went on to have a long and successful NFL career as a player before transitioning into the coaching ranks.

But getting crossed up by a Randy Johnson fastball could have ended all that before it even started.