Q&A: Daytona's J.J. Johnson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jonathan (J.J.) Johnson is playing out his second year in Daytona, a stint that followed back-to-back seasons at Class-A Lansing in 2002 and '03. His outgoing personality and friendly smile make him a fan favorite at the park, and Inside The Ivy met with the right fielder earlier this week for a Q&A.

Inside The Ivy: This is your second year in Daytona. How do you characterize the season you're having?

J.J. Johnson: I'm not really where I want to be right now, but I'm still in a good position. I can't say that I'm satisfied and I can't say that I'm not. When compared to this time last year, I think I'm doing a little better. I think I'm having a better overall season this year than last. I didn't really start hitting until the second half of last year. This year, I've been hitting with good consistency pretty much all season.

Inside The Ivy: Were you surprised or disappointed that you didn't go up to West Tenn after Spring Training?

J.J. Johnson: Yeah, I was a little bit at first, but I don't too much worry about it now. It was hard at first, but that's just how everything worked out.

Inside The Ivy: It's no secret to anyone who follows the Daytona Cubs that you're quite a popular guy here. Why do you think that is?

J.J. Johnson: [laughs] I always get into the crowd and talk to them. I try to keep a smile on my face while I'm on the field. I don't know, man. It was like that in Lansing. I don't know what it is. I honestly don't, because I was hitting only .240 or so then.

Inside The Ivy: What would you say are the strongest and weakest aspects of your game? Your strong throwing arm is one of the things we hear so much about.

J.J. Johnson: Yeah, you know I take the most pride in my hitting, though, simply because it's the reason I got here. If I'm not hitting that well, I always try to let my defense back me up so that I still do something good to help the team. I was originally a third baseman and then they moved me to left field. Well, then they saw my arm was strong, so they moved me over to right. My mentality is to throw you out. I don't like when people try to run on me. [laughs] My coaches tell me I tend to get a little over-aggressive with that.

Inside The Ivy: Tell us about the transition from the infield to the outfield. Difficult? Easy?

J.J. Johnson: It wasn't really that hard. The biggest adjustment I actually had to make was moving to third base. Out of high school, I was a shortstop. I didn't even like third base, whereas the outfield I caught on really quick. It's very relaxing out there. You stay alert, make sure you're not letting anything get by you and always hit your cutoff man.

Inside The Ivy: You had Steve McFarland for a manager last year and Richie Zisk this season. What are some of the different philosophies between both men?

J.J. Johnson: All of our coaches this year are pretty laid back. Richie is so professional. He won't hesitate to take you out or bench you if you're not hustling. One thing about it, if he has a problem, he'll talk to you in the clubhouse. I'm not a fan of yelling at guys in the dugout at all. I like to talk it over like grown men in the clubhouse and just forget about it and move on.

Inside The Ivy: What do you do when you're away from the park and baseball isn't on your mind?

J.J. Johnson: I don't go to the beach here too much. It's a little too hot out there for me. [laughs] I go out every once in awhile, you know. I pick my spots. I have a night life, but you have to be more focused on playing ball. For me, there really ain't much to do out here in Daytona. I never go to the beach and usually don't wake up until around 11 or 12. After the games, my roommates and I will go out to eat a lot.

Inside The Ivy: No cooking for yourself?

J.J. Johnson: [laughs] Not really. (Paul) O'Toole will cook for us every once in awhile.

Inside The Ivy: So walk us through a day in the life of J.J.

J.J. Johnson: Well for me, it's getting up, taking a shower, brushing my teeth, and going to Subway every day for lunch. I get here real early around 1 o'clock. I'll typically go find my hitting coach (Mike Micucci) and head out to the cage for some one-on-one. That's why I like to get here early and get my cage work done. I don't like to be hitting when there are eight people in the cages. After that's done, I go back to the clubhouse and play cards with (Yorkin) Ferreras and (Anderson) Tavarez. I'm proud to say I'm usually one of the first ones here.

Inside The Ivy: Keith Butler was a friend of yours last year who is no longer with the organization. Who on this team have you bonded with this season?

J.J. Johnson: Chris Walker and I are roommates on the road. He's one guy I really like. We're both from Georgia and he's an Atlanta boy.

Inside The Ivy: Good luck the rest of the way, J.J.

J.J. Johnson: All right, take care.

Johnson, drafted out of high school in Evans, Ga., entered the week with a .274 average, seven home runs and 34 RBI. He is on pace to play in over 100 games for the fourth year in a row.

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