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Catching up (briefly) with former O's manager Davey Johnson

Davey Johnson, with his wife Susan, on the day he resigned as Orioles manager after going 98-64. (AP)

CHICAGO -- I snagged a few minutes today with Davey Johnson, who is going to manage Team USA this summer at the Beijing Olympics in what might be baseball's last hurrah at the Summer Games. (Both baseball and softball were axed from the 2012 Games in London in a close vote in 2005, although there is some hope they could return in the future). Johnson still has a big smile when you get him talking and telling baseball stories, and he paused, grinned, then shook his head a bit when I asked him if it felt like it had really been more than 10 years since he resigned as the Orioles manager after feuding with owner Peter Angelos.

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"No, it doesn't feel like it's been that long at all," Johnson said. And as he spoke, I could almost sense him traveling back in time inside his head. "I still have a lot of fond memories, both as a player and a manager (from Baltimore). My kids were born there. It will always be special."

When I tell Johnson that fans still bring up his name with some frequency, either in reference to the fact that he guided the Orioles to their last winning season (1997), or that his departure, in retrospect, seems like the moment when the "Oriole Way" started to crumble, he shrugs. He prefers to remember his playing days.

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"We had a lot of good times," he says. "I got to play in four World Series and play with some of the all-time great guys like Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally. ... I'm glad I got to come back and manage there for a few years."

Johnson -- who two years ago served as a consultant for the Nationals under Jim Bowden and was briefly rumored to be a candidate for the Orioles' managerial job before Dave Trembley got it -- said he still follows the team a little, and says he likes what Andy MacPhail is doing in trying to rebuild the minor league system. He pointed out that Lee MacPhail, Andy's father, was his first general manager when he played for the Orioles.

"I think he has a lot of his father in him. You have to rebuild from within," Johnson said. "That was always the Oriole Way, to have a strong minor league."

And what does Johnson -- who has coached some of the best young players in baseball in his role as the manager of Team USA -- think of center fielder Adam Jones?

"He's one of those five tool players you want, but he's really yet to do it at the highest level," Johnson said. "I did see where he was 3 for 3 the other day, so maybe he's getting there."

Johnson said he doesn't think much about managing again in the majors, and that he enjoys his current role with USA Baseball. He said he had one of his most memorable victories as a manager in 2006 when the U.S., featuring players like Evan Longoria (Devil Rays), Andy LaRoche (Dodgers) and Kevin Slowey (Twins) defeated Panama in the Americas Qualifier Tournament in Havana to earn a spot in the Beijing Olympics.

Team USA (which embarrassingly failed to qualify for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens) followed it up by beating powerhouse Cuba in the final. Johnson also led Team USA to a first place finish at the Baseball World Cup in Taiwan last year, but it was the celebration that broke out when the United States made it back to Olympics that he remembers the most.

"Guys were passing around a jug of rum, trying to get me to take a sip," Johnson said. "They were chanting 'Skipper! Skipper!' So yeah, I took a sip. I've never had a bus ride like it."

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