Johnson excited for future with Cubs

Missouri State pitcher Pierce Johnson was unsure what to expect during the first night of the MLB Draft. Nervously following along, Johnson was thrilled when his name was called by the Chicago Cubs. He has high hopes for a successful major-league career.

The realization still has yet to hit Pierce Johnson, but it happened: he is a Chicago Cub.

Johnson, a right-handed pitcher from Missouri State University, was drafted by the Cubs with their 43rd overall pick in the compensation round of the MLB Draft.

"It really hasn't hit me yet, it has been exciting," Johnson told Northsiders Report by phone. "Once I start getting there and playing, it will really hit me."

As the first round of the draft progressed on Monday night, Johnson followed along on television, holding out hope his name would be called. The unpredictability kept him uneasy during the first round, but that feeling shifted to euphoria once Cubs scout Stan Zielinski called to break the news.

"I was really anxious, really excited," Johnson said. "I wasn't trying not to get my hopes up, just because this whole new draft, you didn't know how anything is going to shake out. Once my name was called, I was so happy, ecstatic. I was on cloud nine."

Johnson grew up with the game of baseball. His father, Don, worked in the Padres organization for nine years. Pierce grew up in Arvada, CO., just 12 miles away from Denver, where he followed the hometown Colorado Rockies.

As a kid, Johnson idolized local hero Roy Halladay, modeling his game after the two-time Cy Young Award winner.

"I've got baseball in my blood," said Johnson.

Johnson joined the Missouri State baseball program, which has produced a lineage of major-league talent, including Bill Mueller, Ryan Howard and Shaun Marcum, among others. Johnson struggled in his freshman season, posting a 7.52 ERA while opponents hit .331 against him.

However, Johnson made improvements in his sophomore season, and as a junior would post a 2.53 ERA while striking out more batters (119) than in his first two years combined. He credits the coaching staff at Missouri State for enhancing his development.

"I've got to give credit to the coaches and the work ethic that [Missouri State players] have, just teaching us how to play the game right and approaching the game," said Johnson. "I've learned so much from the coaches."

Johnson was the second draft pick selected by the Cubs' new management, led by new president Theo Epstein. The organization is shifting in a new direction, and Johnson is thrilled to be apart of it.

"With Theo Epstein taking over, the Cubs are taking some huge steps, and I'm excited to be apart of them."

Johnson has visited Wrigley Field just once, though only saw the ballpark from the exterior. He dreams of taking the mound as a member of the Cubs.

"I'm excited," he said. "I will do whatever I can to make it to the big leagues and win in that organization."

Chris Emma has covered college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports since 2009. He covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs.
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