Accomplishing goals can often be aided when a person has the ability to ascertain how processes work. People who can see those possibilities will have a head start on the rest of the population. They are able to identify potential solutions and determine the viability of each. With their insight, choices to success are made with confidence. R.J. Johnson is one of those people with this ability.
While some may spend a lifetime to reach this understanding, Johnson, a 2021 left-handed hitting outfielder out of Kerr Vance Academy in Henderson, NC, has seemed to figure this out at the age of 16. His approach to identifying his course when it comes to baseball paved a way for him to commit to Appalachian State in the fall of 2019.
As a member of the Dirtbags since the summer of 2019, he says the quest to be seen was a major factor. Knowing the Bags had a reputation for providing exposure, R.J. felt playing with the best would enhance his opportunities. According to him, what he got was much more.
The Dirtbags not only provided Johnson notoriety, as he was placed on the prestigious Bad Company squad, but he says playing on such an elite team gave him great encouragement. The members of the team undeniably push one another. Seeing his teammates gain accolades and offers prompted him to elevate not only his game but also his development.
He knew he needed to take the next step. R.J. knew his physical tools could be accentuated with a commitment to his body. His six foot frame put on ten pounds of muscle. His already fast 6.6 sixty, became a 6.4.
Johnson figured it out. He didn’t blame anyone when others were getting connections with the DI schools, he found a path and did the work. It becomes apparent in conversation with R.J. that finding out how things work is a big deal to him. He’s an investigator of sorts.
He quickly found out how to impress his coach for Dirtbags. Brent Haynes, the Bad Company skipper had this to say about Johnson, “RJ was our table setter at the top of the line up that got things going for us offensively. He’s a quick twitch guy who has game changing speed and puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”
When it comes to being impressed the feeling Johnson had about his fellow Dirtbags was also impactful. But it seems to reach far beyond just their physical attributes and skills. R.J. says the teammates are very much a brotherhood who talk daily and find matches among themselves in terms of dedication and hard work.
He appreciates this and is equally excited to find the same dynamics when he transitions to Appalachian State after high school. The decision to be a Mountaineer had many factors according to Johnson. From facilities to the area, all were just as important. Perhaps most meaningful to him though was the opportunity to be a part of something he feels is building in Boone with the coaching staff.
Though Johnson considers himself a grinder by nature, he has plenty of tools which are accentuated by his decisions as to how he plays the game. His speed is a factor for how he patrols centerfield and directs his approach at the plate, where he tries to be selective and take advantage of ways to be a baserunner. In short, R.J. plays the game smart and leverages his strengths to his teams advantage.
The team he will be looking to aid next will be Kerr-Vance Academy, who is looking to make a run to a 4th straight state title. Johnson then plans to take those skills right into the summer with Bad Company in hopes that trips to Georgia and other high profile events in 2020 can create championship memories.
It seems those big events are where R.J. has tended to shine brightest, as explained by Haynes, “The bigger the tournaments we played in the bigger RJ played, and he was rewarded with a scholarship to play baseball at App State at the next level.”
None of these steps in process are lost on Johnson when it comes to making an impact on others. He says he even sees some of his course being emulated by his younger brother, Evan Johnson (LHP/OF), who is himself a Dirtbag as a member of the 2025 class.
According to R.J., “No days off in the Johnson house.”
His “figure it out” mindset combined with that strong work ethic also shows up when talking about his academic goals. With a 4.3 GPA his aspirations in courses of study were always of a high standard. At one point, Johnson thought he may want to be an engineer. But after spending some experiencing the field he now finds his pursuits to be more geared towards physical therapy.
Johnson says despite wanting to play the game as long as he can and at its highest levels, he understands that life after baseball is a real thing. And just like how he prepares to dominate on the diamond, he’ll be ready.