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Marlin great Charles Johnson goes to bat for Young at Art Museum

Is it any coincidence that two South Florida athletes showing off a unique appreciation for the arts  both used to make their living in baseball’s most cerebral position?

Former Marlin Charles Johnson laughs at the suggestion that catchers are just plain smarter than their teammates, but he stops short of denying it.

“Yes, there are a lot of things going on behind the plate, a lot of responsibilities,” he admits. “We do have to be leaders on the field.”

And in the community: A week before fellow catcher and baseball great Mike Piazza takes the Arsht Center stage in support of Miami City Ballet, Johnson and his wife, Rhonda, will chair a Friday fundraiser for Young at Art Museum (751 SW 121 Ave., Davie).  

The second annual event, dubbed  Stomp for YAA!  and presented by the Hudson Family Foundation, takes place  at 7:30 p.m.  inside the $26 million museum that opened just off I-595 last year.   The goal of the gala is to bring together athletes and donors to raise funds for Young at Art's programming for underserved and at-risk youth.

Along with the Johnsons and fellow chairs Dara and Jarett Levan, the list of athletes on the guest list with their spouses includes  ex Marlin Cliff Floyd, former Heat star Eddie Jones, Sam Madison and Pat Surtain of the Dolphins and former Cleveland Brown John St. Clair.

Auction items and raffle prizes include a basketball signed by the NBA-champion Miami Heat, autographed  footballs, helmets and baseball bases, many with an athlete’s handprint (Johnson shown above working on his). Also jewelry, a European cruise, an Alaskan cruise and more. Entertainment includes a performance by Stomp!  cast member John Angeles.

Johnson, a Plantation resident and father of two, has high praise for both the 55,000-square-foot museum and its founder, Mindy Shrago. He can’t wait to show the space to newcomers.

 “It will be an eye-opener for a lot of people coming to the museum for the first time,” Johnson says. “They are in for a shock.” (Here are 10 Reasons to Love Young at Art Museum.)

Citing the variety of offerings at Young at Art, from painting and pottery-making to photography and filmmaking, Johnson says the museum is  a crucial resource for helping young people discover new and rewarding interests.

“The museum offers kids the chance to walk around and learn about many different arts, all in one space,” Johnson says. “It intrigues their imagination. All of us in some fashion have art in us. It’s very important.”

And you never know what might happen when you get a chance to try something new. Johnson’s 12-year-old son plays baseball like his dad, as a left fielder and third baseman. But that changed recently.

“The coach has been trying him at catcher,” Johnson says. “He says he kind of likes it.”

Tickets for Friday’s Young at Art gala are $250 for nonmembers, $200 for members. For more information, Hannah Hausman at 954-424-5018 or go to

Photo: Darryl Nobles

Get daily updates on South Florida entertainment and things to do at and on Twitter at @BenCrandell.



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