This Johnson Is Steve, Son of Dave, Not Davy

VERO BEACH, Fla.-- When the Dodgers announced the selection of righthanded pitcher Steve Johnson in the recent draft of amateurs, reporters, always seeking an angle, wrote the he was the son of Davy, whose extensive major league managing included a stint in L.A. Upon further review, they found that his father was, for sure, a former big leaguer whose first name is David but this one was a pitcher who toiled for the Orioles, Tigers and Pirates during his career.

It's not the first time that such a mistake was made. It happens all the time. "We've been getting his mail for years," said Tara, wife of Dave and mother of Steve. "It was especially true when he managed the Orioles."

The Johnsons, you see, live in suburban Baltimore where Dave runs a baseball instructional academy and does color commentary on Orioles games for Comcast. And where Steve made quite a name for himself as a pitcher.

Chosen by the Baltimore Sun as the metropolitan Player of the Year, Steve threw a perfect game, a no-hitter, two one-hitters, and two two-hitters en route to a 10-1 record with an 0.45 ERA for St. Paul's Academy. He struck out 121 batters in 71 innings.

He did all this without that mid-90's heat that scouts prefer. Rather, he's usually 88-91 and complements that with a cutter, curve and change-up. What he also displays is a solid mound presence. That he may well owe to his dad, who's always been there to help him along the way. By the way, while he did see his father pitch, he was so young that he has no memory of it.

Before the draft, Steve had accepted a scholarship to Boston College but felt that if he were drafted in the first five rounds, he might well forgo that and turn pro. But when those rounds plus some others came and went without his name being called, he started to think that college ball may well be his destiny.

"The Dodgers called me before the 10th round asked what it would take to sign me. I gave them a figure, then waited but they didn't pick me until the 13th round. I knew they were interested because the scout (Clair Rierson) had seen my last five games. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to go pro."

When negotiation time came, L.A. coughed up fifth-round money ($310,000) which was what the Johnson family had felt was fair. So, Steve's a Dodger now, playing for the Gulf Coast entry.

Most of the family was down to see a recent outing. It would be nice to report a dazzling display for them but, alas, that didn't happen. He had a shaky inning in which four runs scored and ,even though, he came back strongly after that, he was tagged with the defeat.

"Pro ball is about what I expected," he relates "These guys were Nos. 3-4 hitters on their teams so I know they're good. I just have to keep pitching and learning."

For that, Steve has an excellent instructor in coach George Culver, who knows how to bring out the strong points in his charges. Then, of course, there's Dad with whom Steve communicates after every outing and who'll be down to see him perform in a few weeks.

That's Dave Johnson, not Davy. Nor is Steve related to Blake Johnson, another promising pitcher. Someday, though, they'd like to apply some Johnson & Johnson first aid to the Dodger pitching corps.

Although he did see his dad pitch, he was so young at the time that he has no memory of that.