Our next featured athlete is Elliot Johnson. He may be the most decorated baseball player out of the Gila Valley and when you read his responses, he also may be the funniest. See the clip below of him postgame as a member of the Atlanta Braves.
NAME: Elliot Johnson
HIGH SCHOOL/YEARS: Thatcher 1999-2002
SPORTS PLAYED: Baseball, basketball, football
HS SPORTS AWARDS: Thatcher High School Hall of Fame, among others
COLLEGES ATTENDED/YEARS: Went straight to pro baseball
BEST PLAYER YOU PLAYED IN HS: Ryan Bethel (Willcox High)
FAVORITE MEMORY FROM HS SPORTS: Winning state against Phoenix Christian in 2001 (football). They had zero chance.
Our first touchdown Mark Palmer threw to me for 6 so I went ahead and set the tone by letting the defender know it was only going to get worse from there for them. After I scored, I held the ball out to him and asked, “Were you trying to catch this?”
15 yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct later and got an ear-full from Coach Conrad, but it didn’t matter. Like I said, they had no chance. Levi Mack and Steven Lunt were beasts up front. Sean Hinton, Michael Romney and Leon were way too fast for them. Wish we would’ve 42-pointed them just to prove the point.
ADVICE TO CURRENT HS ATHLETES: Work hard. Focus on your routine or the process of improvement everyday rather than focusing on the outcome. Getting better takes years of effort. Make your plan and stick with it. Nutrition and strength training are more important because combined, they make your skill work easier execute. Don’t forget to enjoy being a kid. None of your coaches are going to like you and none of them liked me. Deal with it. Make it undeniable you’re better then the competition. If you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way and if not, you’ll find an excuse. Do not make excuses, find a way. When I was coming up and working out, I was hoping that my competition wasn’t.
WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE YOU GRADUATED? I signed to play professionally instead of playing at EAC. Given our small town bubble, they were the only school to offer me an opportunity until I was scouted at an all star game in Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix after the draft.
2002 – Princeton Rays
2003 & 2004 – Charleston Riverdogs
2005 – Visalia Oaks,Montgomery Biscuits & Phoenix Desert Dogs
2006 – Montgomery Biscuits
2007 – Durham Bulls
2008 – Tampa Bay Rays
2009 – Durham Bulls
2010 – Durham Bulls
2011 – Tampa Bay Rays
2012 – Tampa Bay Rays
2013 – Kansas City Royals & Atlanta Braves
2014 – Cleveland Indians & Columbus Clippers
2015 – Oklahoma City Dodgers
I reside in North Carolina with my wife, Nicole and three kids – Blake, and twin girls Hazel and Skylar and now help retired, current and aspiring MLB draft players.
CURRENT CAREER: Global Sports and Entertainment Associate Director for Morgan Stanley
BRAG ABOUT YOUR FAMILY: I was fortunate to be in the middle of the Johnson boys. I wanted to be like my older brothers and keep my younger two from being better than me. They demanded I work hard, be competitive, not make excuses and pushed me to be the best I could be – especially Leon.
Lucas was a great baseball player and brilliant. Played at Purdue NW.
Isaac was a great athlete and likely the fastest person we’ve had in the valley or close to it. Drafted by the Mariners.
Leon was a competitor and a winner. Drafted multiple times and signed with the Cubs.
Cedy was the most gifted of all of us. Drafted by the Phillies.
Huge shout to the Romney family for always being available to practice and play. Mike made me learn how to get creative and compete no matter what and needs to be in our Hall of Fame too.
Not sure how many state championships we played in to make Thatcher proud, but it’s got to be up there with some of the other great families we’ve had in our town. My role was in two for football, one runner-up in basketball and two runner-ups in baseball.
My personal professional accolades are many but here are a few of my favorites:
One of only roughly 22,000 MLB players of all time
Home Runs against 3 different Cy Young Award winners
AL Champion Rays in 2008
Wild Card in 2011
NL East Champ in 2013
Missed playoffs in only 3 of my 14 seasons in pro ball – 2 of the 3 were missed by 1 game
Hit 4 HRs in 4 consecutive ABs in 4 consecutive innings – unlikely anyone else has done that in pro ball
Stole 40+ bases twice and over 20 in the big leagues once
4-time MiLB All-Star
One more hit in post season play than Ernie Banks (love you, Dad)
Thank you Coach Aaron for letting me run the ball in middle school. Gave me confidence.
Thank you Coach Mortensen for starting me Freshman year. I knew my athleticism made a difference.
Thank you Coach Marrett for the reverse option pass on JV. Made the game fun.
Thank you Coach Smith for getting us to the dance. Let me know I could compete with anybody.
Thank you, Coach Conrad, for your work ethic and letting me call plays from time to time. Winners win.