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Posted 30 Apr 2001   For week ended April 20, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 22Apr01

By Mark Wright

RM Working Toward the Majors

LITTLE ROCK, ARKANSAS -- Gary Johnson is spending the summer playing Double-A ball in Little Rock, Arkansas. While grateful for the opportunity to home his baseball skills, Johnson really wishes he was someplace else, namely Salt Lake City. Johnson, a returned missionary and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would love to have a chance to play ball in Utah for the Anaheim Angels' new AAA farm club, the Stingers.

Originally from the San Francisco area, Johnson was drafted in the 18th round of the MLB draft out of high school and started his collegiate baseball career at the University of California. After two years of college, Johnson left to serve a two-year mission for the Church in Spain. When describing his decision to leave college and serve a mission, it's obvious that Johnson was aware of the risks. "I knew that I was sacrificing part of or even maybe my whole career by doing that (serving a mission)," Johnson said.

When he returned home, Johnson enrolled at BYU where he quickly worked his way into the starting lineup and became a star outfielder. That performance convinced the Anaheim Angels to select the 23-year old junior in the 19th round of the draft. While disappointed with being selected so low, Johnson has a broader view of life and understands how baseball fits into the big picture. "After you go on a mission, you realize what's important. I'm giving baseball everything I've got, but I feel like I have things in perspective."

Apparently, being drafted lower than he expected has merely convinced Johnson that he will have to try harder. Last year Johnson hit .313, collecting 23 homers and 118 RBIs, while splitting time with the Class A Lake Elsinore Storm in California and the AA Erie Seawolves in Pennsylvania. His efforts were rewarded when Johnson was named "Minor League Player of the Year" by the Anaheim Angels. In addition, he was able to start this season by attending the Angels' big league training camp and playing for the Angel's Class AA in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A self-proclaimed slow-starter, Johnson knows that he must raise the level of his performance if he hopes to end up playing Class AAA ball in Salt Lake. Currently batting .182 with just one homer, Johnson isn't overly concerned with his lack of production. "It takes me awhile to get into a rhythm, so I don't usually have the greatest starts," Johnson said. The Angels obviously have faith in Johnson and clearly believe that he has a chance to make the big league roster soon. "It's people like Gary Johnson who have a chance to solve the world's problems," said Angels minor-league director Darrell Miller. "You won't find a better person." According to Miller, Johnson "has a chance to be a very, very solid major-league player for a long time. I don't see any reason why he shouldn't push that envelope, and very soon."

Hopefully, Johnson will live up to his promise and make his way into the lineup for the Salt Lake Stingers before moving on to his ultimate goal, the big leagues. If he continues to improve his game and impress the front office, Johnson should get a chance to be playing in Salt Lake City very soon. After all, he knows what it's like to be a man on a mission.


Johnson Hopes to Work His Way Back to Utah by Season's End
Salt Lake Tribune 15Apr01 S2
By Phil Miller: Salt Lake Tribune


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