Johnson follows his roots, lands at Southeast

Saturday, July 10, 2004

During the late 1970s, Randy Johnson helped the Capahas break through a tough slate of Missouri teams to advance to Wichita and the National Baseball Congress World Series.

Starting next spring, his son, Casey Johnson, will try to help the Southeast Missouri State's baseball team win the Ohio Valley Conference and advance into the NCAA tournament.

Johnson, a 6-foot-3 left-hander from Eureka High School in St. Louis County, signed this spring to play baseball at Southeast. The signing was announced Wednesday by the school.

Johnson was 4-2 with a 1.69 ERA, 54 strikeouts in 41 1/3 innings and two complete games in his senior season at Eureka.

"He's going to be a really good lefty in the classic left-hander mold," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "He still can develop physically, and he has a good pedigree. His dad, Randy, was a really good lefty in his day."

Longtime Capahas manager Jess Bolen is more than familiar with the elder Johnson. He coached Randy and remembers a wicked curveball.

"If this kid has a curveball like his dad, he's a winner," Bolen said. "His dad had one like Matt Morris."

Casey Johnson grew up in Cape Girardeau before moving with his parents, Randy and Rita, to the St. Louis area in 1998. His father's parents, Dr. Earl and Lillian Johnson, still live in Cape Girardeau, and his mother's mother, Jeannette Joyce, lives in Fruitland.

Casey Johnson's connection to family and friends in the area helped him make his college decision.

"It helps to know that I will have some familiar faces around me," Johnson said. "I will have family and friends in the stands."

Randy Johnson said the close family ties will make the transition easy for the whole family. Casey will have a strong support system around him to help with the transition to college and still won't be too far from home.

Casey Johnson had attended Southeast baseball camps, and his father knows his new coach well.

Close ties with Hogan"My dad grew up with Coach Hogan, and that's how we got in contact," Johnson said. "So he came up and watched me pitch. I've known him and talked to him before."

Randy Johnson and Hogan played baseball together at Central High School, during Legion seasons and for the Capahas. When Hogan returned to Cape Girardeau in 1994 to become head coach at Southeast, the friendship was rekindled and Hogan met young Casey Johnson. But Hogan started to take a closer look at the pitching prospect this past year.

The baseball camps Johnson attended in his youth helped Southeast's coaches have an inside track.

"He has a feel for who we are," Hogan said, "and it is one of the few chances for us to get a close look at some good ballplayers. It's a win-win situation."

It also helped expose Casey Johnson to Southeast baseball.

"He knows about their history," Randy Johnson said. "We talk a lot of baseball in this family, so he knows about the program and that it's a good place to be."

Johnson also was recruited by Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. and junior colleges in the St. Louis area. But he decided to wait for a Division I offer.

"I didn't want to take that chance to go to a juco and get hurt or get lost at one of those places," Johnson said. "I wanted to take my shot at D-I."

That Division I opportunity will take place in the same park where Johnson played as a child.

"I grew up playing baseball at Capaha on the two smaller fields," he said. "I've played there most of my life."

Johnson's father also played on Capaha Field as a pitcher for the Capahas from 1973 to 1983.

While he is a Southeast fan, Randy Johnson went away to college and was a four-year letterman at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

But he holds fond memories of his playing days for the Capahas.

"We won a couple of state championships during my time," he said. "It was a bigger deal back then. There were 35 to 40 teams in the state you had to go through. But we started to break through in the late '70s, and going to Wichita was great."

Randy Johnson shares his son's excitement about playing for his hometown school on his old stomping grounds.

"I've been an Indian -- well I guess now a Redhawk fan since I can remember," Randy Johnson said. "I grew up in the shadow of the dome along Henderson Avenue and have played many games at Capaha, so this is just great."

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