By Mark Wright
LDS Major League Pitcher Says Church Contributed to his Success
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND -- Most professional athletes go through a slump
at one time or another during their careers. Most respond to a slump
by working harder, re-focusing on the fundamentals, and spending some
additional time on the field or court, practicing and honing their
skills. Mired in a serious slump last season, Jason Johnson, a
pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles, did all of the normal things that
other athletes do to get back in the "groove" again. However, Johnson
also did something else, something that is practically unheard of
among professional athletes. He used religion to give him an edge.
Johnson, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints, found himself struggling through a dismal season last year.
He sported an anemic 1-10 record, a miserable 7.02 ERA, and had
suffered through two demotions to the Orioles Triple-A farm club in
Rochester. "It was one of those situations last year where I didn't
think anything would help," Johnson said.
Fast forward to this year, and Johnson seems to be a different man.
Last Sunday, in his most recent start of the season, Johnson went 8
2/3 innings against the Montreal Expos, gave up just one earned run
and earned his sixth win of the year (currently, Johnson's record is
6-3). And, with an ERA now hovering just barely above 3.0, Johnson
has turned into one of the bright spots in the Orioles rotation. So,
just exactly how did Johnson manage to turn things around?
Johnson credits several different activities with his remarkable
improvement this season. One of the more focused efforts was a vision
training program offered by Dr. William Harrison of Laguna Beach,
California. Harrison's program involved eye exercises which required
Johnson to focus quickly and rapidly pick out small pictures from a
series of wall charts. The exercises, which gradually increased in
difficulty over a three-week period, were a boon to Johnson. However,
in addition to improving his physical eyes, Johnson also began to
exercise his spiritual eyes. Along with working on improving his
eyesight, Johnson began studying the scriptures every day and become
a student of the doctrines of the Church.
Although not clear from the source article, Johnson was apparently
ordained to the Melchizedek Priesthood during the off-season,
probably to the office of an Elder. While the reporter calls it the
"Order of Melchizedek, the highest of three levels within the
church," the statement is likely a simple error of misunderstanding.
What is unmistakable, however, is the personal growth and success
Johnson attributes to a return to his religion. "Last year I kind of
strayed a little bit," Johnson said. "I wasn't really reading
scriptures and the Bible. Now I read every day. I follow all the
guidelines. It's cleared my mind."
Given his recent success, both in baseball and in life, it appears
that Johnson's vision has improved in more ways than one.
Johnson's focus is all the difference
Baltimore MD Sun 10Jun01 US MD Balt S2
By Joe Strauss: Sun Staff