Published On: February 16th, 2008

Selected in the 13th round of the 2005 Major League Draft by the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox, Johnson (pictured) is now a member of the Portland Sea Dogs (AA). Last season the lanky outfield prospect hit .265 in 109 games that included a team-high 64 RBI’s. In 2006 he led the Red Sox minor league system in runs scored (86) and total bases (230) while playing for the Lancaster JetHawks (A). Johnson played on the Mallards 2004 Northwoods League Championship team and was named the club’s MVP following a solid campaign (.315 with 19 SB’s). In an interview from a horse track near his Kentucky home, the always affable Johnson shed light on playing in the Red Sox organization.

How are you spending your off-season?

I’m a substitute teacher for a high school in Kentucky and I help coach the fundamentals of hitting and playing outfield for the Champions Baseball Camp in Cincinnati, OH. Both are a lot of fun but don’t come close to still be able to play the game of baseball professionally. I leave for spring training on Feb. 25 and am chomping at the bit to get started.

If you weren’t playing baseball what would you be doing?

I would definitely be teaching the game of baseball to youngsters in the 15 to 18 year old range. From playing the game for so many years I have a good sense of how to prepare both physically and mentally for the game at all levels, and I feel I have a lot to give back to the game that has been so good to me. When my baseball career is over I do have my sights on the Senior PGA Tour though. (Johnson is a scratch golfer). How cool would it be to play golf for a living? (laughs)

What do you feel is holding you back from making the Boston Red Sox roster?

Just learning how to handle the ups and downs of a 142 game season, and coping with failure. Preparation is a key word in the baseball world so we’re always looking for ways to overcome the inevitable mental grind that comes with playing so many games with so few days off. Talking about playing through pressure is one thing, but actually playing through it, is a whole different animal. In comparing the Northwoods League to Minor League Baseball, the only difference I’ve seen is that in the latter, players are more apt to look at their individual statistics than at the team’s win/loss record.

Who is the one person you look up to in the Red Sox organization?

No question, Mike Lowell. He’s a professional in every sense of the word and handles himself the way every athlete should. Mike has been around the block a few times so he knows how to handle every situation with the utmost respect and admiration. He also knows when to joke around and when to buckle down and get serious. It wouldn’t hurt to have his contract either. (laughs) (Lowell is in the first year of a three-year contract worth $ 37.5M)

Do you keep in touch with teammates from Madison? What made the 2004 NWL Championship team so special?

I keep in touch with Ryan Rogowski (’04,’05) and Doug Beck (’03,’04) and I played against Greg Thomson (’04) last season. The championship team had the perfect blend of talent and personality, and the chemistry was unbelievable. In the NWL you essentially have a new roster each year, so it was that much more amazing to have guys of different talent and experience come together for a magical ride. You don’t win that many important games if you don’t have a complete team effort.

Name one favorite memory from playing for the Mallards.

I played right field for the team and whenever there’d be a pitching change, I’d often walk over to the fans in the Duck Blind and strike up a conversation. I had to turn down a lot of what they were offering, but occasionally I’d accept a bag of sunflowers. I’ll never forget their warm hospitality and openness to share. (laughs) I also remember announcing a game on the radio with Aaron Sims because I was suspended one game for being thrown out the night before, and the fans in the Duck Blind made a banner that evening that read “Jay Johnson for Dream Job.” (as a tribute to ESPN’s reality television program in search of the next sports anchor)

Have a message to future Mallards?

As an athlete you try so hard to better yourself physically, but in Madison try very hard to prepare yourself mentally. The key that separates those who make it to the big leagues and those who don’t is how well they are able to cope with the mental grind that comes with playing so many games. Trust me, you won’t find a better experience in playing for a summer collegiate team than you will for the Madison Mallards. And enjoy it, because it does go by so fast!

Which Yankee do you secretly admire?

(laughs) You’re going to get me in trouble with my team. (after a long pause) I’d have to say Derek Jeter. He’s a winner in every sense of the word and no one works at the game harder than he does. He’s also a great guy off the diamond and knows how to handle himself in the public eye. There’s a reason why he’s champion.

What exactly is a sea dog?

It’s a seal. Don’t confuse it with a manatee which is nicknamed a “sea cow,” because that makes the locals mad. (laughs)

Time for some word association; say the first word or two that comes to mind…

-Northwoods League-
(Johnson) Preparation.


-Ryan Rogowski-

-The “Duck Pond”-
Great atmosphere.

-George Steinbrenner-
Very ambitious.

-Theo Epstein-
Very smooth.

Nasty; unfortunate.

-Roger Clemens-
Bad spot; undecided.

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