By Austin Bishop
Webster Progress Times
All Rusty Johnson was looking for was a chance.
That’s exactly what he got when Blue Mountain College offered the Eupora High School baseball standout a baseball scholarship earlier this month.
“I have been playing baseball since I could could walk and it’s something I wanted a chance to continue to do,” Johnson said. “I am grateful for the opportunity.”
BMC head coach Curt Fowler said he hadn’t seen Johnson play until he got a phone call earlier this summer form former EHS head coach Brad Mitchell.
“He told me I really ought to take a look at him in the NEMCABB (Northeast Mississippi Coaches Association for Better Baseball) All-Star Game, so I did,” Fowler said. “The kid went out and did everything the way he (Mitchell) said he would. I liked the way he handled himself off the field and when he got on the field you could see what kind of player he was. He has got the kind of natural speed that you just can’t teach.”
While Johnson pitched during the all-star game, Fowler said he was also impressed with Johnson defensively. He said he would have a chance to come in as a freshman and compete for playing time at second base during the fall.
“He has so much natural talent and speed,” Fowler said. “Not only do I think he can play shortstop in college, you can put him the outfield, second base, or third.”
“I was looking at a few other places, but when I went up there and visited I liked what I saw,” Johnson said.
“I think a lot of people missed out on him and I’m glad they did,” Fowler said.
“I felt like the kid needed a chance to play somewhere,” Mitchell said of the reason he contacted Fowler about Johnson. “He definitely has the tools to play at the next level and I thought it would be a good fit.”
Mitchell said the fact that Johnson isn’t very heavy and stands in at about 5-foot-7, may have had something to do with why colleges were slow to offer the scrappy middle infielder a chance.
“I think his size may have had a little bit to do with it and playing at a smaller school may have hurt too,” Mitchell said. “It’s gotten to where most of the players get seen now playing travel ball or at camps. That’s just the way it is.”
Mitchell said Johnson is a special player and person.
“I have been fortunate to have had a lot of good players at the places I have been,” Mitchell said. “but there are a couple that hold a rea special place with my family. I don’t know how to explain it, but they just do. He is just one of those special players.”