Someone to know: Josh Johnson, The Bar of Appleton

Written by Bob on October 7th, 2010

Josh Johnson, left, of the The Bar of Appleton (WI), was selected the Most Valuable Player of the NAFA Open Worlds Series. With him is Andrew Blackshaw, from Australia, who was named to the All World team after pitching The Bar to the championship.
Courtesy Photo

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BAY MINETTE, AL – The journey from the throwing the first pitch to reaching that often elusive point of being able to say, “by golly I think I’ve got it!” is not an easy journey for most fastpitch pitchers.

Many give up after realizing that mastering THIS trade takes lots of practice, lots of gumption, and lots of determination.

But for the survivors – those who toil relentlessly to master the craft, for them come the rewards.

Josh Johnson is one such survivor. And 2010 has indeed been full of rewards.

Here’s a sampling: At the Decatur Herald & Review Shootout, Johnson was selected the Most Valuable Player after helping The Bar of Appleton claim the championship. And at the NAFA World Series Open tournament, Johnson carted off the Most Valuable Player award in leading The Bar to the title at Middleton, WI.

In 2010, The Bar muscled into the top-tier in the world after winning prestigious tournaments at Walcott, Iowa, the Aurora 4th of July, and the Decatur Shootout. The Appleton juggernaut also finished second in the Boys of Summer tourney along with finishing 11th in the 48-team ISC World Tournament.

And figuring in The Bar’s success was Johnson, who had a .444 batting average (4-for-9) in the ISC World Tournament, along with 2 RBI. (Statistics for the NAFA Open, not available.)

“Josh was our offensive MVP hands down,” said Manager, Jesse Delorit. “He led the team in RBI’s, hits and home runs. Josh was also excellent for us on the mound. He has all the pitches, including a rise change. He is able to beat any team in the world.”

Johnson’s climb into the upper echelon of the sport didn’t happen overnight. It took all the traits mentioned earlier: Practice. Determination. Gumption.

No, it wasn’t easy, he admits, in learning the pitching trade and learning how to hit the game’s best pitchers.

“At (the major) level the adjustment to the speed of the game is pretty tough,” said the 32-year-old Johnson, who began playing at the major level about five years a go. “I feel the toughest adjustment is mental. The batters can all pick your pitches and the pitchers all know your weaknesses.

“You have to be able to take some lumps and step back sometimes and realize how they are attacking you. Then you have to make the necessary adjustments. Some players never do and they get stuck.”

Kevin Kammueller (Minnesota Angels) knows Johnson pretty well. Kammueler pitched the championship game for New Image (Montfort, WI) in the NAFA Open World Series, a game in which The Bar came out on top, 3-0.

And Johnson proved troublesome for New Image and Kammueller.

“I have had success getting him out on inside drop balls,” said Kammueller, “however in the NAFA Open finals I tried that approach in his first at bat and he hit one about six miles…Throw him a bad pitch and you will either be ducking or watching him trot around the bases.”

Let’s have a chat with Johnson and learn more about him and his fastpitch ambitions.

All your hard work is paying off, but what’s your ultimate goal in the sport?
“The ultimate goal in every sport, I believe, is to be at the top, at the highest level. To me that means playing for the USA Men’s National team and representing my country. I have always hoped to wear that USA jersey and it’s the reason I push myself so hard in the off-season…”

Jesse, your assessment of Josh’s goal. Is he being realistic, or dreaming?
“Josh is a true gamer,” Delorit said. “He has great speed, great defense, and an unbelievable bat. Josh is hands down one of the best players in the United States. I would think that he should get a look from Team USA for the 2013 ISF’s (International Softball Federation XIII Men’s World Championship, North Shore, New Zealand).

How do you prepare for the upcoming season?
“I train, doing at least something almost every day. I need recovery (time) like every athlete, but I’ll use my off days and work on mental things and diet is No. 1 in the off-season…I try to train like a professional athlete.

“About the first of November I start working on the pitches that need work. I’ve also developed a strength, speed, and conditioning program for softball that I (and other players) use.”

Was there ever a time when the nasty little thought crept into your mind, “Hey Josh, why don’t you give up, this sport and learning to pitch is too hard!”?

How and when did you get your start in fastpitch?
“My dad (Mark) was a pitcher for Echo Tap of Madison (WI). I remember going along to his tournaments. My brother (Jared, 31) plays on the same team with me. At 22, after college (played baseball) I went full time to fastpitch. While I was going to college, I still played fastpitch during the week and on weekends.”

When you moved up to the Major level, were you both a hitter and pitcher?
“I was asked as a shortstop, so I came up as a hitter and then started pitching three years into my major career. In 2008, I became the primary pitcher for the The Bar of Green Bay then moved to (The Bar of) Appleton.”

What’s your proudest moment in the sport?
“I’m not sure there’s a specific moment. But two things really get me pumped about how I am doing. First, when guys who are really good players themselves tell me how well I have been doing.

“Second is getting walked intentionally, being pitched around, or even hit on purpose when you’re on a roll. It shows a lot of respect when good pitchers don’t want to throw to you. Neither happens that often, but when they do, I get pumped.”

You’re the Head Softball Coach at Faulkner State Community College, Bay Minette, Alabama. What’s that like compared to the men’s side of the sport?
“The women are easier to work with in that when you give them a drill or start working on something specific, they will be much more dedicated and diligent in their pursuit of increased performance than men will.

“However, women have many more social issues that bring down performance and trying to balance them is near impossible. I like coaching as a break from playing ball and I also like playing ball as a break from coaching. I think both help improve the other.”

You moved from The Bar of Green Bay to The Bar of Appleton. A good move?
“I had as much fun with The Bar of Appleton as I’ve ever had playing the game.”

You’ve played in the AAU tournament? How does it compare with the ISC World Tournament and NAFA Open?
“I’ve played eight or nine times for teams like Florida Fastpitch and Earl’s Club. It’s one of my favorite tournaments. All the best teams and players get together for one weekend. It’s kind of like ‘softball for Christmas.’ The South American teams come in great shape. It’s an awesome tournament and almost as good as the (ISC) World Tournament.”

The Bar had a terrific year and was ranked as high as seventh in the world. To achieve that lofty status takes not only great players, but also a sponsor willing to finance that kind of operation. And The Bar has one of the best sponsors in Mark Miller proclaim Johnson and his teammates.

“Mark Miller is one of the best sponsors the game has today,” Delorit said. “He has four or five fastpitch teams he sponsors and is always there when times are tough. He believes in keeping his teams as local as possible and getting the youth involved in the sport.”

And Miller and The Bar have one of the top gamers in fastpitch, says teammate, Tom Crouch.

“Josh is one of the top ten American-born players playing the game today,” said Crouch. “ He can carry a team with his bat and arm and was definitely the most valuable part of our team in 2010. We would have not been a top ten ranked team all year if it had not been for Josh.”

For more great fastpitch news, visit these websites:
Al’s Fastball
Fastpitch West
International Softball Congress
North American Fastpitch Association
2010 ISC World Tournament, Midland, Mich.

3 Comments so far ↓

  1. Eric Legge says:

    Very talented player,developed into
    a dangerous hitter and pitching is

  2. Bob says:

    Living testament that hard work pays off and can take an athlete far.

  3. Kasey says:

    Josh is my pitching coach. He is very humble. I never expected that he was that good until I started digging deeper. Wow, I hope I can develop like he did.

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