Johnson remembers Holliday as a regular in the stadium's gym and also recalls hearing stories about how the Rockies outfielder would return to his Mesa-area apartment and continue his muscle-enhancing exercises without weights or machines.
While Johnson never actually saw these apartment workouts, he remembers some of his teammates talking about how Holliday would use filled suitcases to do shoulder shrugs and bicep curls.
"You could tell he was going to be really good then," said Johnson of Holliday, who won the National League Championship Series MVP award on Monday night and is a top candidate to win the NL MVP award that will be announced in November.
Johnson and Holliday would again cross paths during the offseason in Austin, Texas, which is where Johnson resides and where Holliday spent parts of his offseasons when his father, Tom Holliday, served as a pitching coach at the University of Texas from 2004-06.
During some January days, Johnson and former Braves outfielder Ryan Langerhans would work out with Holliday. When they were finished, the Rockies left fielder would opt to continue doing drills with his dad's players.
"It was January and he was going all out, basically doing full Spring Training workouts," Johnson said.
Holliday's dedication has paid dividends this year, as he's already captured the NL batting crown and now finds himself enjoying one of the greatest runs in baseball history with the Rockies, who have won 21 of 22 entering their first trip to the World Series.
His 137 RBIs led the NL and his 36 homers ranked fourth. One of the most impressive stats supporting his MVP credentials is the fact that the Rockies went 28-5 in games that he homered. And that doesn't even count Monday's three-run, fourth-inning homer that provided the difference in the NLCS-clinching victory over the Diamondbacks.
When Johnson first met Holliday, the Rockies outfielder was coming off a season in which he'd hit .253 with 12 homers in 522 at-bats with Double-A Tulsa. During their month-long stint as teammates in the AFL, Johnson's .573 slugging percentage was better than the .515 mark compiled by Holliday.
But still it was always evident to Johnson that his workaholic teammate had this tremendous upside that has certainly been recognized this year.
"He always had a good enough swing and was so strong," Johnson said. "I guess he's one of those guys who they say learns to hit and then sees the power catch up later."
No surgery for McCann: Brian McCann visited an Atlanta-area doctor on Tuesday afternoon to discuss possible surgery. Fortunately, it had to do with his eyes and not his left ankle that occasionally bothered him this past season.
While Lasik surgery might be in McCann's future, the Braves All-Star catcher says he and the team's medical staff have determined he doesn't need to have surgery on the ankle. Recently, there had been some thought he'd have a bone spur removed from the ankle region.
But because the ailment was present throughout the season and never forced him to miss any extended period of time, it was determined that the rest he'll receive over the next few months would serve as a better alternative.
Royals managerial search: Because of his ties with the Braves, it won't come as a surprise if Royals general manager Dayton Moore completes his managerial search with the selection of one of his former Braves co-workers.
Reports have indicated Moore's wish list includes these Braves employees: hitting coach Terry Pendleton, bench coach Chino Cadahia, third-base coach Brian Snitker and top scout Jim Fregosi.
Pendleton has made every attempt to make it known he enjoys being with his family in Atlanta. Fregosi certainly wants another chance to manage. As for Snitker and Cadahia, Moore has said in the past that he believes both could be effective skippers at the Major League level.
For now, Moore, who was an assistant GM in Atlanta before assuming his current role, isn't saying much of anything about the subject. And it appears he's in no rush to make a decision.
Familiar faces in the World Series: When the World Series begins next week, former Braves Vinny Castilla and Walt Weiss will proudly be wearing their Rockies uniforms. Both are special assistants to Colorado general manager Dan O'Dowd.
Castilla and Weiss served as coaches for all of the Rockies home games this year and helped evaluate some Minor League talent when the big leaguers were on the road. Since the postseason began, they have been with the Rockies both at home and on the road.