Now Batting, for the United States of America…

Usually, OMDQ puts one of these columns up to denote the Major League arrival of one of the Bus League faithful. But Lt. Jonathan Johnston is no ordinary player. A 2006 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Johnston had already spent a year on active duty before the Oakland A’s took a flyer and selected him in the 42nd round of the 2007 first-year player draft. His .317 senior-year batting average for Navy no doubt grabbed their attention, but the amazing 35 stolen bases (for a catcher!) had to be the clincher.

While Johnston’s ship, the USS Peleliu, was in port, his commanding officer allowed him to join the Oakland As affiliate – The Kane County Cougars. The Navy man played in 36 games and was just starting to shake off a year’s worth of rust before he got the unwelcome word that the Peleliu was setting sail for the Persian Gulf, and he was expected to be on board, at his gunnery station.

Johnston’s no shirker. He signed up, and he’s willing to serve. He just wonders why he’s getting a different deal than some other members of the armed forces.

“I’m proud of the fact I’ve served two years and feel I have done my duty well. I’m not trying to get out of my last three years, I just want to find a way to keep playing baseball while still serving… just like the Army guys,” Johnston said.

Johnston is referring to the fact the United States Army is allowing West Point graduates to participate in professional sports while on active duty. A total of five former Army baseball players – 2006 graduates Nick Hill (Seattle Mariners) and Milan Dinga (Los Angeles Angels) along with 2007 alums Cole White (Pittsburgh Pirates), Drew Clothier (Florida Marlins) and Chris Simmons (Pirates) – are currently playing in the minors.

“I’m the first Naval Academy player to go through this process and I’m trying to do it the right way,” Johnston said.

[Hometown Annapolis]

It’s tempting to think that maybe Johnston is being handled differently because he’s not as good as he thinks he is. But consider this – the A’s had every notion of assigning him to the Rookie League to start out. But Johnston’s skills and maturity forced them to reconsider, and put him in A ball.

Johnston is already 24 years old. He knows this is his only shot. He still has a request pending that could allow him to serve as a recruiting officer – essentially using his semi-celebrity status to put a pleasant face on the Navy, and bring more new sailors into the fleet. Considering how difficult it has become for the armed services to recruit during this time of hostility, that might be an effective tradeoff.

Whichever way it turns out, we wish Lieutenant Junior Grade Johnston the best of luck, and thank him for his service.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by proud navy mom on June 24, 2008 at 11:41 am

    I am so very proud of Jonathan! He is not only a fabulous baseball player, but what an example of integrity and responsibility!

    I can’t imagine what the Navy is thinking by not giving him his shot at baseball. What a fabulous chance they are missing at displaying one of their own. A wonderful example of what USNA delivers to this country!

    Reply

  2. Posted by proud navy mom on June 24, 2008 at 11:42 am

    I should have clarified. I am not Jonathans Mom, but the proud mother of a 2008 USNA grad.

    Reply

  3. Perhaps the publicity will turn things around. I can’t imagine a better recruiting officer.

    Reply

  4. Posted by Gerry on June 24, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Everyone deserves a chance and should be treated equilly. Why should the Navy be any different? Go for it Jonathan we’re all behind you.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Bruce on June 25, 2008 at 1:49 am

    When the Cardinals drafted Navy pitcher Mitch Harris, it was mentioned that the Secretary of Navy has suspended the Alternative Service Option during war. That’s why guys like Johnston and Harris won’t be seeing any baseball action in the near future.

    Reply

  6. Posted by chicagokid on June 25, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    All servicemembers should be treated equally. This is AMERICA for God’s Sake.

    Reply

  7. Posted by David on July 2, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    The Navy is missing the boat here. What this young man had to go through just to be drafted by the A’s demonstrates what kind of resource he can be for the navy recruiting effort. This young man demonstrates that you can set out and be anything you want to. That the USNA can be a viable option to get there. Let this young man be the face of USNA athletics. Give him the same chance.

    Reply

  8. Posted by C on March 25, 2009 at 6:27 am

    I currently work for Mr. Johnston abord the USS Curts and i can honestly say that he is an outstanding leader and a mentor to all sailors on the ship. As i am learning more about his fight to play baseball (witch he never mentions) i do feel that he got a raw deal. I can only hope that he gets the chance he deserves.

    Reply

  9. […] P profiled Johnston last season when he was told he had to leave his team in Kane County, where he had a .228 batting average in 36 […]

    Reply

  10. […] P profiled Johnston last season when he was told he had to leave his team in Kane County, where he had a .228 batting average in 36 […]

    Reply

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