Just like you always remember where you were when something tragic happens, I think it’s equally easy to remember the place you were at when something really awesome happens.
I will probably always remember where I was when Smithville pitcher Jared Johnson got drafted by the Atlanta Braves. It wasn’t at my computer, monitoring the draft, where I had been all the day before, getting ready to write a story. Instead, I was leaving the ICC soccer tournament and strolling into a gas station to grab myself a Coke. As I walked in, I thought to myself, “He’s definitely going to get drafted while you’re in this gas station.”
And sure enough, I was right.
This was my first experience with the MLB draft, and it made for a crazy one for sure.
That Tuesday, I put myself on “draft watch” – kind of like baby watch, only much more fun. On that day, I think we all expected Jared to get drafted and probably by the Kansas City Royals. After all, everyone had seen them at every single game he pitched in. When that work out on Tuesday, I wasn’t sure what to think or what would happen. Would they draft him instead the next day? Would another team?
It turned out there was a much better plan and a more perfect fit in store when the Braves came calling the next day. It was one of the messages that I know several people – myself included – passed along to Jared after the disappointment of the day before, for him to keep his head up and something good was going to work out.
Growing up in Mississippi, it’s probably the dream of so many young ballplayers to be drafted by the Braves. Kids grow up watching their games on TV and probably attending a few in person as well.
Another thing that made the Braves the perfect fit is proximity – not just the Major League club but several minor league affiliates are within a quick drive, and I know I myself am looking forward to the day when we get to see him back at Trustmark Park on his journey to the big leagues.
And as far as the draft goes, it’s true the round is just a number in the end. Amory’s very own Mitch Moreland was an 18th-round draft pick and has played in three different World Series, won one and been an All-Star. For my own Cardinals, superstar Albert Pujols was a 13th-round pick and one of the greatest players the game has seen. I have seen pitchers taken in the final few rounds of the draft come up and have success.
It’s all about how much drive you have and what you do with the opportunity you’re given, and I know that Jared is the type of player and person to make the most of his.
For me, another thing that has made my head spin is how wide-reaching Jared’s story has been. When we talked on the phone after the draft on Wednesday, he talked about how people from so many different areas and schools had sent him well wishes, and his story on the Monroe Journal web site has close to 300 shares alone and still one of the top stories in our company. When I shared it on my own Facebook, I had everyone from family in St. Louis to friends and former classmates in Corinth liking it or commenting to say how awesome it was.
Managing editor Ray Van Dusen wrote a column a couple of months ago about how there was something in the water here in Monroe County, and he gave mention to Jared and another one of our star athletes, Amory’s Luke Flippo, who is going to Yale.
They both prove there’s something in the water around here for sure, but what they are an even bigger indication of is to not give up on your dreams.
I’m sure plenty of people told them that they couldn’t play professional baseball or attend an Ivy League school. Neither one let the naysayers stand in the way, and now they are both just getting started on the path to something big.