Second Season in Northwoods League has Different Look for Johnson

Posted on July 15th, 2020 by

Christian Johnson loosens up in the bullpen at Franklin Rogers Park during a recent Mankato Moondogs practice.

MANKATO, Minn. – Christian Johnson ’21 (Buffalo) is no stranger to summer baseball. Gustavus’s ace pitcher spent last summer playing in the Northwoods League for the Kalamazoo Growlers as well as amateur ball in Minnesota with the Cologne Hollanders. However as he takes his spot on the rubber for the Mankato Moondogs in 2020, the stands and dugout look slightly different. 

“I’m used to seeing a packed crowd in Kalamazoo, and even a good amount of parents and students at Gustavus so it’ll take some getting used to,” Johnson said. 

The limited number of fans due to COVID guidelines at Franklin Rogers Park isn’t the only thing impacting summer baseball. Johnson participated in mandated testing upon arrival for the season, is required to wear a mask when meeting with physical trainers, and stands six feet apart from teammates during the National Anthem. 

Following a spring season at Gustavus that featured just one game in Arizona on March 12, Johnson now appreciates the challenges that come with playing against Division I players in the Northwoods League. 

“I have to pitch differently than I do at school,” he said. “Focus on off-speed and not being able to blow a fastball past guys that are usually hitting over 90. I’m also starting to get used to having more rigorous training in the gym.” 

The Buffalo native notes that one of the more positive outcomes of this season’s adjustments is having more time to focus on team chemistry as all of his teammates are new faces with different styles of play. 

Johnson is eager to return to campus since playing with the Moondogs doesn’t make up for missing out on the Gusties’ 2020 season – one that would have posed the challenge of defending the MIAC championship. 

“It’s great to play baseball again but I miss going out into the field with the guys I’ve been playing with the last four years and continuing to build those bonds,” he said. “Not to mention we were looking forward to proving ourselves and taking home a MIAC championship.” 

Another conference title is something the Gusties hope to accomplish at their completely renovated ballpark next spring.

 

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