Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman, one of the major league’s hardest-throwing pitchers, once threw a pitch clocked at 105.1 mph.
The fastest pitch Brandon Johnson has recorded so far is 93 mph.
But that’s plenty fast enough for a college scholarship. Johnson, a senior at Faith Lutheran High School, has signed with the University of Kansas for a full-ride scholarship to play baseball; he plans to major in psychology on a predentistry track.
He began playing baseball when he was 7, when his parents, David and Elizabeth, signed him up for Little League. He fell in love with the game and discovered his dream to play in the majors.
Throughout the years, his parents have been extremely supportive, Johnson said. His father’s persistence in getting his son training and lessons has paid off. Johnson said he is beyond grateful for their dedication to his life and treats their support as a blessing.
“By raising me with the morals and goals to not only become successful in baseball, they have also helped me to be a gentleman in my life,” he said.
Johnson’s dream of playing in the majors has come with difficulties. Johnson said maintaining a strong work ethic is the sport’s biggest challenge.
“Push yourself as hard as you can and in as many ways as you can,” he said. “Sometimes it is hard, but you cannot be lazy.”
Sometimes Johnson’s perfectionist nature gets the best of him. He said his biggest fear is failure. He believes that nerves are a vital part of competitive sports and can be good or bad, depending on how one chooses to look at it.
“Being nervous not only comes with pitching, but performance. One bad pitch could turn the whole game around, and that’s where the nerves come in,” he said.
Yet along with the nerves also come the thrills. The greatest thrill Johnson remembers is playing in the 2013 state championship and being named an all-state pitcher.
“Pitching to so many fans, including family, friends and Faith Lutheran staff members, along with becoming the 2013 D1A state champions was and is still the greatest thrill I’ve ever had — not only in baseball, but in my life,” Johnson said.
He has also come to have a greater understanding of the game.
“Baseball is a team sport. No matter what anyone else says, baseball is not an individual sport. When I cross the chalk lines on the dirt, I play for only two people. I play for God and I play for my team.”
Because he is so dedicated to baseball and school, Johnson said his social life is pushed aside. But he does have other interests. He plays the drums, avidly attends concerts, and is a member of Young Life. He is the senior class vice president, and participates in Applied Christianity and Service Leadership at Faith Lutheran.
Johnson said the college recruiting process was entertaining. While he was given options by universities including the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the University of San Francisco, Gonzaga University and Rice University, he said God led him in another direction in picking the University of Kansas. The pure excitement he said he felt when visiting, college traditions, state-of-the-art facilities, experienced coaching staff, great academics and the college town of Lawrence sealed the deal for Johnson and KU.
“I couldn’t be happier to attend Kansas ... in the fall of 2014,” he said. “Rock, Chalk Jayhawk!”
Faith Lutheran head coach Blair Neagle had only positive things to say about Johnson.
“Brandon is both competitive and team-oriented, which is the perfect mixture,” Neagle said.
Neagle said he was extremely excited about and proud of Johnson’s signing with Kansas.
“It’s a great feeling knowing (Johnson) will go somewhere he’ll be taken care of. I hope he has a great experience in the Big 12 at KU,” he said.
His teammates, seniors Thomas Beatty and Alec Goss, spoke highly of Johnson.
“Brandon is definitely the comedic relief on the team,” Goss said.
Beatty said: “He is also a great leader who brings a lot to the team. It definitely helps that he can throw 93 mph, but he’s lighthearted, he takes the game seriously, keeps us in check and motivates us.”
Johnson offers advice for anyone who shares his dream.
“Sometimes, going into club ball and high school, it’s easier to focus on yourself rather than the team. Put aside your egos, trophies, individual accomplishments, realize that sometimes it isn’t about the home run, and play for your team.”