Growing up in Chicago, Trey Johnston thought the transition would be smooth. He didn't expect the challenges to be that great.
But when you are 17 and drafted by a Major League Baseball team, the pressure to
perform in any environment can be overwhelming.
Although he was adept at life in a big city, he did not yet have the wisdom to
see the pressure that laid before him. That came in many forms. From the extra
money in his wallet to the long distance relationship with his girlfriend and
the communication barrier that exists at the low levels in the minors between
the players themselves, everything began to mount on the youngster.
"Over time it just kept adding up," Johnson admitted. "I really never had
anyone to talk to except my family. Baseball-wise, I didn't really have anyone
to talk to. Things would build up inside of me and I would carry that onto the
field day in and day out. Little mistakes would happen, like errors I don't
normally make, balls that I should catch that I didn't catch, balls I should hit
that I didn't hit. I started to doubt my own abilities."
That led to his unconditional release from the Cubs, a blessing in disguise.
It not only forced him to view his own faults in a positive way, it also opened
up the door to greener pastures and the San Diego Padres.
While he was in a foreign world in the Cubs organization, citing a player
development department that did not talk to him, that aura changed when he was
picked up by the Padres.
"I felt like I was all alone," Johnson said of his time with the Cubs. "Over
time, I didn't have it and it totally showed. So, I got released from there and
it was June of '04 - that day Bill Byrk gave me a call and two days later I was
with the Padres.
"Coming over to the Padres was a totally different story. Everything went away.
The people that are with the Padres are different. Not to knock the Cubs
people but just the way they handle their personnel over here is much more
relaxed. I am not nervous going out on the field because people are watching
me. I am just more comfortable over here.
"It was like night and day. When I got to the Padres, this is what I expected
when I first got to Pro ball."
Johnston says the Padres are genuine and care about each player personally.
They don't take on favorites and treat each prospect with respect.
While many players at the Big League level point to Bruce Bochy as a reason to
join the team, the Minors are having that same affect on prospects and their
courtship of free agents.
"It is a confidence booster coming over here," Johnston added. "Not all the
time, but every once and a while they will come up to you and say, 'you are
doing a good job. You are working hard.' That feels good. It might not show
on the outside but inside and you will have more confidence when you go out
"Tye Waller, the way he is when he walks around is not intimidating like when I
was with the Cubs and the minor league director came around we all cringed. Tye
comes out and handle severyone, doesn't pick favorites. Everyone is on the same
level. The players even get along. Over there, I felt alone. They had their
cliques. You have your group of friends that you hang out with but over there,
if you weren't good you weren't friends with anybody. My first year wasn't good
so I didn't really have anyone to talk to. I love it over here."
Johnston played third base for Peoria last year but is in the process of
converting to catcher. He calls it a natural fit and has adapted well to the
challenge. A former pitcher, Johnston knows a thing or two about setting up a
More importantly, the Padres are a fresh start for the now 19 year old prospect.
As he explains, "(The Padres) cared more about their players. It felt like if
you were over on the Cubs if you were not good they let you know it. They
wouldn't handle you with any type of treatment, you just got the shaft."
With a renewed sense of commitment and growing friendships, Johnston is looking
towards the future in comfort. He isn't afraid of the pitfalls that knocked him
down earlier in his career and knows he has the support of the organization
behind him. They want him to do well and his goal is to make them proud.
Prospect Interview: Trey Johnston
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