Blake Johnson, Class of 2014 - Bottom of the Ninth #108

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Bottom of the 9th - Blake Johnson, Class of 2014

Blake Johnson, Valor Baseball Class of 2014

Alumni Speech - 2015 Valor Baseball Banquet

My life has always been about baseball. I've played since I was about four and was always the little kid glued to the TV watching any baseball game that was on. I grew up always playing catch outside or hitting a ball into a fence. I always took baseball seriously, but knew there was also something bigger I was playing for. Coming into high school was intimidating. The game sped up and I was not exactly in the best shape of my life. Just ask any of the coaches, they'll tell you. With that said, I did play all four years at Valor. Most of the time was spent working hard to get to where I wanted to be: Varsity. It took me all four years, however, to realize that the ultimate goal was NOT the end result but the process of the journey. I don't look at my Valor Baseball career just as what I accomplished in my one year of varsity baseball, but rather the hard work, the determination through adversity, and the countless life lessons that I have learned throughout all of my four years. What does "Hard Work" mean? Hard work is a path to success to a goal that we want. This goal can rarely be achieved if we do not work hard. Hitting the weight room and taking advantage of the performance training here at Valor was huge for me. One of my teammates, Kyle Robbins, and I made a deal with me early in our careers at Valor – we would push each other as fellow asthmatics to never give up. I sought to transfer that work ethic to the field, taking all that practice gave me and never taking shortcuts around drills.Along with being asthmatic, I've also been injured a lot playing baseball at Valor. Without going into too much detail, I'll just say that I was "that guy" on the team for quite awhile. Months of injury and recovery is stressful, and I could've easily given up. But my work ethic created from being a "performance athlete" said otherwise, as I never gave up and always worked hard to get back to playing shape. Working hard transfers over into my academic college life: you work for the grade you get, discipline with freedom, and giving your best in every aspect.

These are all baseball lessons that transfer over. Don't take hard work for granted. Teamwork. Many people confuse teamwork and "just getting along." Teamwork is something that is not easily come by. It is something forged, much like the Brotherhood that Valor Baseball tries to achieve. It is a machine with every player and coach fulfilling their purpose as best they can. Without people understanding and fulfilling their role, it cannot be accomplished.

In our District Championship game last year, my teammate and brother, A.J. Cecil, hit a grand slam in the bottom of the sixth inning to give us the lead. It's one of the great moments in program history and was captured in that incredible photo you've all seen. But in the top of the seventh, our pitcher got in a bit of trouble and I was called on out of the bullpen to get one out. Just one. There's no photo of it, but it was a huge out for the team. Just ask our pitching coach, Mike Timlin - he'll tell you that being a relief pitcher isn't glamorous, but it's something that needs to be done and is an essential part of the game. I was willing and ready to do what had to be done.

Teamwork is something I've learned is huge in life. As humans, we are meant to be together and work together. Baseball has definitely taught me to be a teammate first, and an individual second. Like I said at the beginning, I look at my baseball career at Valor through the lens of process. The process and building of the journey is the most important in my life.

Last year our team made it to the second round of state playoffs. Our last game was against Longmont and I remember vividly how I pitched that game because this one was special. It wasn't necessarily special just because of the moment itself, but it was much more of the cap to my time at Valor. After that last game All-Star Park last season I found myself crying and hugging teammates - brothers, rather. It wasn't because of losing the game, it wasn't because I didn't do as well as I thought, and it wasn't necessarily that it was my last game. It was because of the countless hours I put in the weight room. It was the transformation I had as a man, learning lessons here and there as I played baseball. It was because of the relationships I'd formed with each of my coaches and teammates over the years. It was because of all the things over all my years at Valor playing baseball, that I embraced my emotions and understood that the process of the journey was the ultimate goal for me. And I had achieved this goal without even knowing I had.

Enjoy the little things, they are what you will remember most and appreciate the most. If I had to choose a Bible verse to describe my Valor Baseball career through the lens of what I have learned, it would be from the book of James 1:4: "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Players, I would hope that this would encourage you to work hard, be the best teammate you can be, and understand that a huge part of your experience is your journey - not just baseball, but in life). Coaches, I hope you can continue to give these fine young men the experience that I have had, because I know that it has helped shape me into the man that I am today. Thank you, and God Bless.

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You may comment or correspond with

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by sending an email to BottomOf9@gmail.com

Bottom of the 9th devotionals (current and previous) and other inspirations centered around the game of baseball can be found at aroundthemound.org.

Our mailing address is: