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Former MCC pitcher relies on passion and family to pursue his dreams

MANISTEE — Blake Johnson, a former student-athlete at Manistee Catholic Central, started playing baseball when he was two years old.

It’s a family tradition, which he shares with his grandfather, Bill, his father, Jeff, and his mother, Staci.

“I’ve been throwing and kicking in the backyard with my dad since I was little,” Johnson said. “I went to tee-ball when I was four and then to little league when I was six.”

Together they have a deep bond with the Detroit Tigers and never miss a game.

“It’s always been a big part of our lives,” he said. “When I was in preschool at Manistee Catholic, my grandfather always picked me up because my parents were working. So I would go to his house and we would watch every minute of Tigers.

“It’s something I built with my family, whether we watch it or play it.”

The sport alone allows Johnson to recall some of his favorite times growing up.

“There was one time when I was playing tee-ball, and I was five years old,” Johnson said with a laugh. “My dad was a coach because our coach was out of town. I hit a ball over the fence and I stood there and watched it like I had seen in MLB. And my dad yelled at me for not running the bases.”

When his senior campaign ended in a district semi-final loss to Mesick last spring, Johnson didn’t have a single scholarship offer. He capped his time at MCC with a 1.68 ERA and 120 strikeouts.

But, for him, playing competitive baseball was surely over.

He did what he thought was right, deciding to forgo college and immediately secure a place in the workforce.

“I wasn’t looking for any school at that time,” Johnson said. “I had given up on going to college. I got into electrical because I wanted to save on student loans and make it…I was planning on doing this for the rest of my life.”

Still, he couldn’t walk away from the game so easily.

A year after hanging up his jersey, in what he thought was a permanent result, Johnson became Catholic Central’s pitching coach – once again dressing for the Sabers.

His priorities quickly changed, realizing he had missed it.

From there, he planned to attend Central Michigan University, where Johnson would pursue a major that kept him close to sports.

“I was helping coach Nick (Fortier) with basketball,” Johnson said. “He asked me and a few other guys who were still hanging around if we were going to come in and take on the team…it’s a different sport, but I thought, ‘Playing sports is fun. , and I want to do it again. “

“Baseball was my best chance to continue.”

Although, admittedly, Johnson wouldn’t be on a baseball field as a Chippewa.

That is until he and Adam Pierce, his former teammate at Manistee Catholic, had a few conversations about Grace Christian University, located in Wyoming, Michigan.

“He played there last year as a freshman,” he said. “I was talking to him about the baseball program, and we both said, ‘It would be pretty nice if we played on the same team again. “”

Johnson visited the campus in early March, going there the day before his official visit for a trial.

“I texted the coach (Colton Wolfe) beforehand because Adam gave him my number… I threw a bullpen in front of him and especially the pitching coach,” Johnson said. “They said there was enough there.”

In a whirlwind of a year, Johnson was suddenly a new college baseball player, and he couldn’t be happier.

“I’m really excited to be back and back on the mound,” Johnson said. “Like I said, watching it made me realize how much I wanted to be there.”

Still, it’s the first step for Johnson, who at 19 dreams of playing Division I and Major League baseball.

“Personally, I would like to reach as high a level as possible, whether that means going up another level or even getting drafted,” he explained. “I want to work and do my best to get there…but there’s a lot of work to do before that.”