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Baseball

Royals remember Tigers' power hitter

Middleton's Josh Johnson makes a lasting impression, going in the draft's third round to Kansas City.

By MIKE READLING
Published June 8, 2004

TAMPA - Middleton coach Larry Doby Johnson remembers the day he thinks his son, Josh, sealed his fate.

It happened on Middleton's baseball field in front of a very small number of people. One of those people just happened to be a scout from the Kansas City Royals.

The scout was there to see Johnson's smooth swing, the one that became notorious the past couple of years for lacing doubles to all parts of the outfield. That day, however, Johnson did more than just rip pitches around the park.

He also cleared the fence a few times. Like four.

Then he followed that up by cranking a long home run against Armwood.

"I would say that was a pretty good day for him and Kansas City," Larry Doby Johnson said. "You know, he's not really much of a power hitter. But a kid that size, showing that kind of power was something they wanted under their care, custody and control, I guess."

For the season, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Johnson hit two home runs but batted .509 and struck out four times in 57 at bats.

The outing must have made an impression because Monday afternoon, while sitting in an Albuquerque, N.M., hotel waiting to play in an All-American game, Johnson was drafted by the Royals in the middle of the third round with the 85th pick overall.

"When the draft was going on and he was not taken in the first or second round I asked him, "Where would you fit with all the good ballplayers around the country? Three years from now maybe you'll be a first- or second-rounder,' " Larry Doby Johnson said.

"The expression on his face was not a real good expression. But then his name came up and he just started shouting and screaming with joy."

That joy is something father and son can share.

Ever since Larry Doby Johnson found out his wife was pregnant with a boy he knew he had a baseball player on his hands. He said he looked at the sonogram and immediately began planning how to turn what he saw into a baseball player.

It has taken years of practice and hard work but he finally saw everything pay off when Josh signed a scholarship to play at the University of Texas. At least that was the plan until Monday afternoon.

"When the dust settles things should move along quite readily," Larry Doby Johnson said of signing with Kansas City.

"We don't anticipate any problems. I know Josh wants to play baseball on the professional level. I guess this is like a dream come true for a kid. Or Christmas. Or winning a lottery."

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:17:05]


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