[Premium Article] Gene's Page interviewed Caledonia (MS) High School hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson recently. Josh, one of the top pitchers in the state of Mississippi this year, has committed to Mississippi State."> [Premium Article] Gene's Page interviewed Caledonia (MS) High School hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson recently. Josh, one of the top pitchers in the state of Mississippi this year, has committed to Mississippi State.">

Caledonia HS RHP Josh Johnson Commits to MSU

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/highschool/baseball/2002/joshjohnson.jpg" align="left" width="120" height="163"> [Premium Article] Gene's Page interviewed Caledonia (MS) High School hard-throwing, right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson recently. Josh, one of the top pitchers in the state of Mississippi this year, has committed to Mississippi State.

Josh Johnson, one of the top players in the state of Mississippi this year, recently committed to Mississippi State. Gene's Page caught up with Josh and talked to him about his commitment to MSU.

What is your height and weight, Josh?
"I am 6-0, 175."

I know you play more than one position in high school. Did State recruit you as a pitcher or for other positions?
"They mainly recruited me as a pitcher. They told me, if I wanted it, I would be given an opportunity to play a dual position."

Do you want to play more than one position or just pitch?
"More than likely, I would rather just stick to pitching. It wouldn't bother me to play another position. Whatever helps the team would be alright with me."

Did you grow up a fan of Mississippi State baseball?
"Yes sir. I have been a fan of Mississippi State baseball ever since I can remember. Some of my grandparents, uncles and aunts are from Eupora and we used to pass through Starkville and see those lights on and I always wanted to play there."

What was it about Mississippi State that caused you to become a fan of theirs?
"I've been out in leftfield lounge and I would really get into the games out there. There is just a good atmosphere there. Plus, being (at State) is like being at home because it is so close to home. Like the coaches told me, it is like a family atmosphere. It makes a big difference if you feel at home where you go to school."

I know playing high school baseball doesn't give you much time off to go see State play baseball. Have you gone to many State baseball games?
"I've gone to a few. Each year I probably go to 2 or 3 a year. It is tough to go unless it is on a Sunday afternoon because I am playing the same time they are."

When did you go on your official visit to State?
"It was the weekend of the Auburn game. I went there Thursday, Friday and Saturday."

What impressed you about State while you were on your official visit?
"The coaches were real nice. Coach Polk was real nice. Anybody that knows anything about baseball knows him. They put us up in a nice hotel and took us to the (football) game. We got to meet a good many of the players and got to see what it was all about. They took us around the campus and showed us the campus. The campus is real nice but I knew that because I had grown up around it. They showed us the Sanderson Center and the baseball field. They are going to be adding on a lot of (facilities) soon. They are going to have a real good team the next couple of years and I thought about that."

They offered a scholarship while you were there. When did you decide to take them up on their offer?
"Once they offered I talked to my dad about it. My dad pretty much told him that night that was where I wanted to go, but we didn't officially tell him until the next morning. I wanted to talk to my dad about it before making it official, but I had pretty much made up my mind once he made the offer."

What other schools recruited you other than Mississippi State?
"Well, Ole Miss recruited me for a little while and Delta State. Alabama and Southern Miss sent me a few letters. Ole Miss stayed interested for a while. The recruiting coordinator called a few times and talked to my dad because I wasn't around. I called him back but was never able to get in touch with him. They called a few times, then just quit calling."

What schools did you officially visit?
"(State) was my first one. I knew where I wanted to go so I made up my mind then."

Have you ever attended an MSU baseball camp?
"I went to the pitcher/catcher camp between my freshman and sophomore years."

What are your strengths as a pitcher...your velocity, what pitches you throw?
"My fastball is my strength. Most guys at my level in high school aren't going to hit the fastball at the (speed) I throw it, at least not most of the time. There are a few exceptions like (MSU commitment) Jeffrey Rea. He is an exception. Some other people can catch up to it if I don't have other pitches to bring with it. I also throw a curve and changeup."

Tell me a little more about how your fastball velocity has increased since your freshman season.
"When I started off as a freshman, I pitched a little (on the high school level) just to get some experience. I probably topped out at about 83 (miles per hour) then. I got stronger by lifting weights. My dad, who is a assistant baseball coach at Caledonia, stayed hard on me about lifting weights. I started gaining a little bit of weight and started liking (lifting weights). So I started lifting more and more. My sophomore year I think I went from 83 to 89 (mph). I topped out at 89 one time. I think it was against Independence in the playoffs. That was the last game of the season."

What was your velocity your junior year?
"When you came to watch us play, it was early in the spring and it was cold, but that shouldn't have been an excuse. I was throwing probably as low a velocity that I have thrown in a while. I was probably throwing about 85 to 86 then [During that game, he topped out at 88 according to my Stalker gun.-Gene]. As the year progressed, I got my arm in shape. The first few games of the season I threw pretty good. A couple of games after you watched us, I hit 90. That was the first time I had hit 90. This summer I topped out at 93."

What velocity do you consistently throw?
"Probably from 88 to 91. Somewhere in that range."

That is pretty fast, especially or your age. How old are you right now, 17 or 18?
"I just turned 18 last week (October 6th)."

I know you have a good fastball and curve with good control, but do you feel you have pretty good poise on the mound?
"Yes sir. I don't think I get shook up too easy. I have pitched for so long. My dad kept pounding it in my head that I needed to keep my poise on the mound. When it starts getting to your head, that is when you are done. If I get hit, I get hit. My dad told me the older you get, the more you will get hit because you can't throw it by batters these days. You see batters in the major leagues hitting 100 mph fastballs out of the park. You just have to get used to getting hit. It will be tough going to the next level in the SEC and face batters there."

You had a pretty good summer. You were the winning pitcher during the championship game of the American Legion World Series. Talk a little about that tournament and how you pitched.
"The last team we played from Omaha had a few kids that (were committed) to the University of Nebraska. A couple of the other ones (were committed) to some smaller schools around Nebraska. I pitched my best game against them (in the championship game of the regionals). That was probably my best game that I had ever pitched as far as throwing hard [He consistently threw in the 91 to 93 mph range that game.-Gene]. Some of their boys came up to me and told me I was the best pitcher that they had faced. That made me feel good. We also played an Arkansas team that had kids on it that were going to sign with the University of Arkansas. We faced some stiff competition out there."

I guess that was a big confidence builder for you to play and beat such great competition?
"Yes sir. It was a confidence builder for sure. No one would have thought that we would do that well. Our coach told us at the beginning of the season that this wasn't the best hitting team that he had had but we had the pitching. And he said pitching can take you a long way. We had Jeff Schafer, Drew Judon and some other players who pitched well for us."

You mentioned Jeffrey Rea earlier. Tell me a little about him. How good is he?
"I know him real well. He is real good. He has a good bat, a real good bat."

How does he compare to other hitters that you face?
"He is probably the toughest batter that I'm going to face this year."

What is it about him that makes him so good?
"He has a real quick bat and he is fast. He is going to put the bat on the ball no matter where you throw it. He can also hit it out of the park if you put it in his wheelhouse. I'll probably have to pitch around him. He also has a real good glove. He is just a complete ball player."

Are you guys good friends?
"Yes sir. I've talked to him a couple of times since I committed to State. We are probably going to room together next year. I played with him in the State Games a couple of years and we roomed together."

You faced another Mississippi State commitment, shortstop Bunky Kateon? Tell me a little about him.
"Yes sir. He is a good hitter who can hit with power. He hit a pretty good line drive off of me. He is real smooth and quick at short. He has a strong arm. He is a real good ball player."

I read about how well you did in the American Legion College World Series Tournament in the local newspaper. What honors did you win at that tournament?
"I got the All-Tournament Team MVP. I also won the Bob Feller Award for having the most strikeouts in the tournament."

Josh, I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me.
"Yes sir."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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