Heungkuk Life Offers Played as a spiker, recruited as a replacement for the underperforming Yelena “He will prove that he can work in the V-League”
Kim Yeon-kyung “A character that is essential to the team” Dad is a legendary left-handed pitcher in MLB
Willow, the daughter of American professional baseball major league ‘legendary pitcher’ Randy Johnson, has entered the Korean professional volleyball V-League and is attracting attention from fans. Willow joined Heungkuk Life Insurance and she is working with ‘Volleyball Empress’ Kim Yeon-kyung. The number 51 that Willow wears on her uniform is the number her father wore during his playing days.
“What my father and I have in common is that we always want to win.”
Willow Johnson (26), whom I recently met at the Heungkuk Life Insurance practice gym in Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, looks exactly like her father at a glance. Randy Johnson (61), a ‘legendary pitcher’ in the Major League Baseball (MLB), is his father. His father was the tallest player in MLB history (208 cm) until his retirement in 2009. Willow is 191 cm tall and left-handed like his father. Willow, who joined Heungkuk Life Insurance, a women’s professional volleyball team in Korea, plays with jersey number 51. This is the number his father wore when he was a player. The MLB Arizona team where Randy Johnson played retired this number. “Becoming a professional player made him more aware of what a great player his father was,” Willow said. My father is a legend who played in MLB for 22 years and left behind a career record of 303 wins (166 losses) and an ERA of 3.29.
Willow is the third daughter of Johnson’s four children. In addition to volleyball, she played several sports from a young age, including basketball, softball, swimming, gymnastics, and soccer. Her father always emphasized ‘team spirit’ to his daughter. Willow has received a lot of attention as ‘Randy Johnson’s daughter’ since her days as a student at the University of Oregon. She appeared frequently in the media as a college volleyball star.
However, it was not all smooth sailing to enter the Korean professional volleyball V-League. Willow applied to participate in the Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) foreign player draft in 2020 when she was a senior in college, but withdrew her application when she joined Nillüfer of the Turkic League. Willow, who suffered from homesickness in Turquoise, returned to his hometown when a short-term professional league was created in the United States. While playing in the United States, he participated in KOVO tryouts (player public evaluation) in 2022 and last year as well, but no team nominated him. At the time, Willow was evaluated as not having a high offensive batting average considering his tall height.
Willow, who failed to make it to Korea, was preparing for the American league that opens this month when he received a love call from Heungkuk Life Insurance. Heungkuk Life Insurance was looking for a player to replace Yelena (27), a foreign player who was in a slump. Willow said, “As he had tried three times before, he thought this was an opportunity he should never miss. “I wanted to prove that I was a player who could do well in the V-League,” he said.
Willow has been melting into the team since his V-League debut, scoring 36 points and shooting an attack success rate of 45.2% in his first two games. He is an offering spiker (right) and does not score many points, but he is good enough to relieve the offensive burden of his teammate Kim Yeon-kyung (36, outside hitter). Willow’s style is to break the ball and hit it, so his spike pitches are tricky. His attack routes are diverse and he is evaluated as having good speed control when jumping. His personality was bright and cheerful, so he quickly became friends with his teammates. Kim Yeon-kyung said of Willow, “I think she gives very good energy to the team. “He is a character that our team needed.”
Willow said, “I like pink. He even dyed his hair pink last year. “It feels like fate to wear Heungkuk Life Insurance’s pink uniform,” he said. “The goal is, of course, to win. “I also want to grow as a good player and teammate every day,” he said. Heungkuk Life Insurance, ranked second in the women’s division, won 3-0 in the first two games after Willow joined and began chasing leader Hyundai Engineering & Construction.
His father, Johnson, also supported the challenge of his third daughter, the only professional player among his four children. Willow said, “My father said, ‘Time is short. “He advised me to enjoy and embrace every moment,” he said. “I was playing my first game (against Korea Expressway Corporation) after coming to Korea, and there was a fan in the stands who brought my father’s uniform. I was surprised that my father had many fans in Korea as well. “I will work hard to encourage the fans who loved my father to come forward and support Heungkuk Life Insurance,” he said. Randy Johnson is also planning to visit Korea to support his daughter. 19가이드03