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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Jeremy Johnson Interview

By Paul Gierhart

It is really refreshing to talk to a young ball player, who loves the ental side of the game.  It’s even better when that young ball player’s goal is being part of a winning team and not breaking records. Unselfishness is only one of the great qualities you’ll find when you talk to this rising star in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system.
I take great pride in introducing to the readers of Top Prospect Alert, outfielder Jeremy Johnson.

The first thing I really like about Johnson is he’s from the great state of Illinois (my home state). His perspective on the game reflects the work ethic, strong family values and down home likeability you will find in the Midwest.  Johnson stated, “Since I was in 8th grade I wanted to play ball and my parents stuck behind me”.

As a freshman at Southeast Missouri State, Johnson started his season off 3 for 32. He credits his coach Mark Hogan with the support required to break out of that shaky start. Before the end of his senior year, Johnson broke the career-hit mark on a fourth inning single against Iowa State on Sunday, February 20. Kyle Yount, who held the record prior to Johnson, set the career hit mark in the final week of the season in 1999, piling up 215 career hits.

Johnson, a starter in all four years at Southeast Missouri, collected 218 career hits after the double header February 20, 2000.

“Nobody deserves this record more than Jeremy (Johnson),” said head coach Mark Hogan. “It is special to break a record such as this so early in his senior year since he will have over 40 games left this season to add to this record.”

At the end of his senior season, Johnson was named the Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Player of the Year.  He finished second in the OVC in batting (.415 AVG) and led the OVC in home runs (18) and runs scored (55).

“Jeremy is the epitome of what a student athlete is,” said head coach Mark Hogan. “He adds character and integrity to this great game. It couldn’t happen to a better person.”

When asked what thoughts went through his mind before, during and after the June 2000 draft, Johnson responded, “I talked to several teams (the Blue Jays and Cardinals taking the most interest) after my junior season and I was told I would have a pretty good chance to go the 8th through the 10th round.  My first day hopes (of the June 2000 draft) end in disappointment, but I was drafted in the 26th round and I’m very glad for the chance.”

Johnson’s first full season of pro ball at Medicine Hat (Rookie-level Pioneer League), proved to him that the Blue Jays really cared about their players. “They (the Blue Jays) seem to really care about players…they made sure we are living right, healthy and provided really good coaches.”

The 2000 Ralph Nelles award for the Pioneer League Most Valuable Player was given to Johnson. Along with a second place batting average of .378, Johnson was fourth in the league with 58 RBIs, and first in total hits (90). He also led the league with a .495 on-base percentage and with 64 runs scored. He ranked second with a .609 slugging percentage and 34 extra-base hits. Johnson said he was surprised about winning this award, citing he felt as though he ran out of gas at the end of the season. Anyone who knows the Pioneer League can tell you it’s 7 days a week, a lot of travel (ranging from a minimum of 4 hours and as long as 16 hour bus rides to games), sleeping on the bus and pizza. But Johnson pointed out, the host family who shared their home with him and the home cooked meals during the
season helped to make his tour of duty in the Pioneer League memorable.

The Blue Jays draft report card showed Johnson as their Best Pro Debut Player and Best Hitter in 2000.

Johnson’s manager at Medicine Hat, Paul Elliott, thinks Johnson’s hitting was more than just a product of an older player at a lower level. “He hits for power with a level swing and drew 55 walks, a combination which bodes well for the future. He’s fine defensively, though he might not run well enough for center field as he moves up the ladder.”

Johnson’s response was one of action and not words to Elliott’s comments. “During the off season I worked on my quickness, arm strength and I feel I am a lot stronger,” proclaimed Johnson. He added, “The mental side of my game and fact I don’t like to lose have always been the strongest part of my game.”

When compared, Johnson has been told he is a Steve Finley type player.

When asked if there was anything outside of the game of baseball that he would like his fans to know about him, Johnson did not hesitate to say that September and October found him out hunting deer and he enjoys fishing. He considers his family very important to him (including his wife of two months – who’s been with him for six years and who is still in school), because they have supported him in pursuing his God given talent of playing baseball.

Jeremy Johnson has been practicing with Toronto’s Double-A squad from the Southern League (Tennessee Smokies), but expect him to settle in with the High-A team in Dunedin this spring.

Many thanks and good luck wishes to Jeremy for allowing me to interview him.


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