Aug. 14, 2004
The Chicago Cubs announced on Aug. 13 that they have agreed to terms with former Notre Dame righthanded pitcher Grant Johnson, their second-round pick (66th overall) in the 2004 June draft. Johnson had two years of eligibility remaining, after pitching for the Irish in the 2002 and ’04 seasons (he missed ’03 due to a shoulder injury). Johnson becomes the 40th Notre Dame player in the 10-year Paul Mainieri to move on to professional baseball, with that group including five from the 2004 squad (each was drafted in the first 14 rounds, the most Irish players ever selected that high in the same draft). He follows third baseman Matt Macri (Colorado) and fellow righthander Chris Niesel (Cleveland) as the third member of the 2004 junior class to sign with the respective team that drafted him last June. Johnson, Macri and Niesel were the cornerstones of a 2002 freshman class that was rated by Baseball America as No. 1 in all of college baseball. Each of Notre Dame’s early signees is expected to return and complete his remaining degree requirements. During the Mainieri era, all 59 of his four-year players have graduated from Notre Dame while his eight previous players who signed as juniors have returned to complete or near completion of their degree requirements. Johnson also has turned in an impressive career in the classroom at Notre Dame, including a 3.83 semester grade-point average in the spring of ’04. Johnson never earned full All-America honors with the Irish (he was a 2002 Freshman All-American and selected for the ’02 U.S. National Team) but he was a proven big-game pitcher in his two seasons, easing back into full efficiency by the middle of the 2004 season (when he finished 6-0 with a 1.87 ERA). See the below link for updated biography capsules on each of Notre Dame’s five 2004 draftees. Johnson’s updated bio. text follows below, as do his post-draft comments.
2004 Post-Draft Comments – Grant Johnson (Jr., RHP; 2nd-round selection of the Chicago Cubs) “It’s pretty exciting. I’ve always been a fan of Chicago, so playing anywhere in the city is going to be great. I’m just glad to have the opportunity.” “Going someplace that you are wanted is always great. It’s nice to have the connection to Notre Dame, and kind of a home feeling everywhere I go will be nice.” “We haven’t really talked at length about the contract or anything like that. There is a chance I could be back at Notre Dame, we will just see what happens.” “It has been an emotional rollercoaster lately. One moment you are crying because the season is over and the next you may be going to try and play professional ball. Right now I am sorting things out and we’ll se how it goes.” “It would be unbelievable [to join the Cubs pitching staff]. I grew up watching those guys and I think by pitching with any one of them, I’ll become a great pitcher.” “[Former ND pitching] coach [Brian] O’Connor really gave me a lot of confidence in myself. He really played a big part in my development as a good pitcher. Without him, I would not be as confident, I would not be as much of a bulldog.” “With me coming back from shoulder surgery, [current ND pitching] coach [Terry] Rooney was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. He is very much into mechanics and getting a feel for things and that helped me work through some things after the surgery.” “A big debt of gratitude goes to both of those pitching coaches. Without them, I’m just a thrower. With them, I’m a good pitcher.” “There was a lot of talk among kids coming out of high school. They would say ‘don’t go here they will blow you arm up.’ But people always spoke very highly about Notre Dame and the way thy handled their players. I can echo those thoughts after my time here. It is unbelievable how I have been treated here, especially with shoulder surgery. That was a bad break for me, but the staff eased me back into it. Now it feels great and I’m as strong as ever.” “[Athletic trainer] Mike Bean is great, he treats me like one of his kids. There is a level of respect, like a father figure. You do what he says, everything he wants you to do but at the same time you can laugh with him and have fun. Having him in the training room, keeping me upbeat all the time, calming me down when things did not feel that great, and just having his support made me more confident in myself and more confident that I would come back.” “The best decision of my life was coming to Notre Dame and not going to the pros out of high school. This is an experience that I will cherish forever. You can’t put a price on this kind of camaraderie and the love of the game that everybody shows. Every game was a team effort and everyone gave 100% all the time. Twenty or thirty years down the road, I will look back on it as the best time of my life. ” “I believe that your work ethic on and off the field should be very similar. I’ve always worked very hard in the classroom, as well as on the field, and this semester it paid off. The academic advantages you have at Notre Dame are just tremendous. Hopefully, my baseball career will last quite a while, but if it doesn’t I have a college education. I am going to finish it up, if I don’t come back next year, I’ll finish it in the offseason.” Grant Johnson 2004 BIOGRAPHY CAPSULE – (Jr., RHP; Burr Ridge, IL/Lyons Township HS; 6-foot-5, 215 pounds) (see PDF link above quotes for career stats and complete updated bios of ND’s five 2004 draftees) Selected by Chicago Cubs in 2nd round (66th overall pick) of 2004 MLB draft … has two years of eligibility remaining after missing all of ’03 season due to shoulder injury … 5th-highest drafted player in ND history behind RHPs Brad Lidge (1st rd/17th pick by Astros in ’98) and Aaron Heilman (supplemental pick/31st overall by the Twins in ’00, then 18th overall by the Mets in ’01) and C Ken Plesha (17th pick in ’65, White Sox) … drafted one spot behind CF Dan Peltier (’89, 3rd rd/65th pick, Rangers) and one spot earlier than former teammate and CF Steve Stanley (’02, 2nd rd/67th pick, A’s) … 25th college pitcher selected in ’04 draft, 41st college player and 40th overall pitcher … was forecasted to be a 2nd-rounder for ’01 draft but went undrafted due to strong commitment to ND …9th ND player to be drafted/signed as a free agent by the Cubs (either during ND career or out of high school), all in last nine years and seven in last five years (including two current Cubs minor leaguers, C Paul O’Toole and RHP Ryan Kalita). CAREER NOTES – Has compiled a 2.89 ERA and 15-5 record in two ND seasons, holding opponents to .222 batting avg. over ’02 and ’04 seasons (missed all of ’03 while rehabbing from Dec. ’02 shoulder surgery) … his other ND career stats include 137 strikeouts, 70 walks and 133 hits allowed in 159.0 innings and 32 appearances (27 starts, 2 complete games), plus 6 wild pitches, 16 hit batters and 7 home runs allowed … 9-inning career averages: 7.8 Ks, 4.0 walks and 7.5 hits allowed, with 2.0 K-to-BB ratio … ended ’04 with 2.89 career ERA that ranks 10th all-time among ND pitchers with 60-plus IP – also 5th-best by ND pitcher in last 10 years (since ’94), trailing only current sophomore closer Ryan Doherty (2.30, below standing record of 2.36), four-year All-American Aaron Heilman (2.49, ’98-’01), Larry Mohs (2.52, ’94-’97) and former teammate and reliever Brandon Viloria (2.58, ’00-’03) …has posted 3.18 ERA and 4-1 record in 6 career postseason starts (39.2 IP, 35 H, 15 BB, 29 Ks, 9 HB, WP) … went 3-1 with a 4.21 career ERA in the NCAAs (4 GS, 16 Ks, 12 BB, 21 H, 25.2 IP) … tossed 1-hit masterpiece vs. South Alabama in ’02 NCAA Regionals (25-1; 29 BF, BB, HB, 8 Ks) before winning Super Regional opener that snapped top-ranked Florida State’s 25-game win streak (10-4; 6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 2 Ks) … has posted a 1.44 ERA and 8-1 career record at Eck Stadium (12 GP/10 GS, 62.2 IP, 32 H, 56 Ks, 29 BB, WP, 7 HB) – including 5-0 with a 0.87 home ERA in 2004 (6 GS, 0.87, 31 IP, 14 H, 26 Ks, 13 BB, 4 HB) … his impressive numbers also include Dean’s List semesters in the fall of 2002 (3.63) and spring of ’04 (3.83), as a marketing major. AS A JUNIOR – Closed ’04 regular season with back-to-back BIG EAST pitcher-of-the-week honors, then one of three pitchers named 1st team all-BIG EAST …Danny Tamayo (’01) is only other ND pitcher ever to earn back-to-back BE pitcher of the week … eased back into regular rotation, with limited pitch counts and 57.2 IP … his 1.87 ERA ranks 13th in ND record book and would have ranked 8th in nation for ’04 but he was 5.1 IP short of the NCAA min. (1 IP pre team game) … only Heilman (1.61 in ’98, 1’74 in ’01) and current teammate Tom Thornton (1.81, in ’03) have posted a better season ERA in the last 11 ND seasons (since ’93) … his .188 opp. batting avg. also would have led the BIG EAST (did not meet the same min.) and ranks 3rd in ND record book (stat kept since ’91) behind David Sinnes (.163, in ’92) and Heilman (.173, in ’01) … led staff in ERA while ranking 2nd in opponent batting avg., 3rd in Ks (51) and starts (13), and 4th in wins (6-0, good for 10th in BIG EAST), innings and groundouts (62) … other stats included 39 hits allowed, 26 walks, 7 hit batters, a 2.0 K-to-walk ratio and a single wild pitch … owned a .250 opp. slugging pct. (2 HR, 3B, 5 2B) that was better than most pitchers’ opp. batting avg. … dominated in conference games with BIG EAST-leading 1.91 ERA (5-0, .169 opp. avg., 33 Ks, 15 BB, 23 H in 37.2 IP) … joined Heilman (1.40, in ’01) as second ND pitcher to lead BE in ERA … his .200 opp. batting avg. with runners on base ranked 3rd on staff … 2nd on staff with .159 opponent 2-out batting avg. while his opponent leadoff on-base pct. (.271) also ranked 2nd … his 9-inning averages included ranking 2nd on the staff in fewest avg. hits (6.1), plus 3rd in Ks (8.0), 4th in batters faced (38.6) and 5th in GOs (9.7), also 4.1 walks … especially tough vs. righthanded hitters (2nd on staff with .176 opp. batting) while ranking 3rd on staff with .212 batting by lefthanded hitters … also 3rd on staff with 17 Ks “looking” … closed with 1.32 ERA and four wins in final six outings (5 GS, 32 Ks, 14 BB, 21 H, 34 IP) … did not allow a 2-out hit in his final four starts (0-for-24), posting 1.39 ERA in that stretch that included 7 shutout innings in back-to-back outings … held final five opponents to .173 batting with runners on … first extended action came on April 12 vs. St. John’s (5 IP, 0 R, 18 BF, 2 H, 3 Ks, HB, 49 of 72 pitches for strikes, 2 GO, 5 popups) … tossed sixth 1-0 game in Paul Mainieri era to beat BIG EAST rival Rutgers in 7-inning opener (4 H, BB, 3 Ks, 25 BF, 11 GOs, 60 of 85 pitches for strikes, 0-for-8 with runners on, 0-for-7 with 2 outs) … his 7 shutouts innings vs. Virginia Tech (in 9-inn., 9-0 win) completed 6-game stretch in which the ND staff posted 48 shutout innings (out of 52) … allowed just two balls out of the infield while holding Hokies to 2 H, 4 BB with career-high 9 Ks (plus 8 GOs, 2 popups, 1-of-9 with runners, 0-of-7 with 2 outs) … had solid outing at BIG EAST Tournament in showdown with BC’s Chris Lambert (1st-round pick of Cardinals), logging 7 innings (2 R/1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 6 Ks, 9 Gos) … picked up NCAA win over UC Irvine (6-5; 5 IP, 6 H, 4 R/3 ER, 3 BB, 4 Ks, 2 HB, 64 of 108 for strikes). PRE-’04 NOTES (also see full bio.) – Impressive ’02 season included Freshman All-America honors and being selected to USA National Team … helped U.S. staff post team-record 1.48 ERA in summer of ’02 (1.80 ERA, 2-1, 5 GP, 25 Ks, 13 BB, 11 H, 20 IP), with games including international tournament in the Netherlands and World Championship in Italy … other pitchers on that record-setting staff included Cal State Fullerton’s Chad Cordero and Wes Littleton, Kyle Sleeth (Wake Forest), Phillip Humber (Rice), Brad Sullivan (Houston), Bob Zimmerman (Southwest Missouri), Huston Street (Texas), Abe Alvarez (Long Beach State) and Kyle Bakker (Georgia Tech) … the position players included catchers Landon Powell (South Carolina), Clint Sammons (Georgia) and Ryan Garko (Stanford), 1B Michael Aubrey (Tulane), 2B Rickie Weeks (Southern) and Eric Patterson (Georgia Tech), 3B Conor Jackson (California), SS Aaron Hill (LSU) and Dustin Pedroia (ASU), OF Sam Fuld (Stanford), Shane Costa (CSF), Mark Jurich (Louisville) and Carlos Quentin (Stanford). Also see the below link for pre-2004 bio. (including prep and personal data) http://und.collegesports.com/sports/m-basebl/mtt/johnson_grant00.html