Before South Carolina pitcher Tyler Johnson was mowing down batters in the SEC and closing out games for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, he was a lightly recruited right-handed pitcher from Virginia who had two offers -- Army and Navy.
That changed when former USC coach Chad Holbrook and pitching coach Jerry Meyers discovered Johnson and offered him an opportunity to play for the Gamecocks.
A few years later Johnson is expected to be selected in the top five rounds of next week’s MLB draft and says a big reason for that is Holbrook.
“I owe him everything,” Johnson said Wednesday. “Who in their right mind recruits a 6-2 right hander at about 180 pounds that’s throwing 85-88 miles per hour to the SEC? Not many do. I reached out and told him, ‘I owe you everything baseball wise and in my sports career for giving me the opportunity to get myself in position to where I could put on a Carolina uniform.’ ”
Despite missing time with an injury this season, Johnson saved 10 games for USC and finished with a 2.39 ERA.
He was a preseason All-American and was the MVP of the 2016 Columbia Regional. The thought of pitching in the NCAA tournament seemed far-fetched for Johnson in high school until Holbrook took a chance on him.
“My mom always said if you affect one person’s life you’ve done your job to be something bigger than yourself. He should feel happy that he’s done that and more for several kids, regardless of what people are saying,” Johnson said. “He should feel comfortable knowing that he affected my life in such a way that could change it forever. I’ll be forever grateful for that. I owe him a lot. It’s kind of sad for me. He’s a great guy.”