Boys of Summer: Former Resident Enjoying Old Friends
There are those who love the game of baseball, and then there is Dennis Johnson.
Johnson helped start the Sandhills Sand Gnats adult baseball team that is still playing some of its games at Pinecrest before he moved to the Springfield, Mo., area last year. A veteran of 21 years in the U.S. Army, he was a player-coach for the 45-and-older Sand Gnats team when he left.
About a year earlier, his son Mitch, a baseball and football player at Pinecrest, transferred from Greensboro College to Eureka College in Illinois. Mitch has played baseball at the Division III school the last two seasons. The business administration major was recently honored as a member of the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) All-Academic Team.
Mitch is currently an outfielder for the Bear Valley Rapids in the Boise Summer Wooden Bat League. Last Thursday, he smacked a three-run homer in the second inning against the Pepsi Wolfpack in Nampa, Idaho, that proved to be the difference in a 7-6 victory.
Nampa, Idaho, is a little out of the range for Dennis and Rhonda Johnson to watch their son play baseball regularly this summer. But a couple of recent arrivals to the region, and former classmates of Mitch at Pinecrest, have provided a reason for the Johnsons to take in some minor league baseball action.
Last month, former Pinecrest and East Carolina pitcher Seth Maness was promoted by the St. Louis Cardinals from their Palm Beach (Fla.) team to the Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League. The Johnsons have already gone to see him pitch twice.
Maness improved to 4-1 on Friday, going six innings and allowing one earned run in a 6-2 win over the Frisco Rough Riders. He did not walk a batter, improving his remarkable strikeout to walk stats to 61 Ks and five bases on balls in a total of 96 innings at the two stops this season.
Through last week, the Johnsons had also seen Josh Haley, a football teammate of their son at Pinecrest, play twice for the Southern Illinois Miners located in Marion, Ill. Haley, a baseball star at Pinecrest and UNC Pembroke, signed with the independent Frontier League squad after a tryout about two weeks ago.
Haley recorded his first base hit as a pro in last Friday’s game against Joliet (Ill.). Johnson also found time to make a trip to watch the Milwaukee Brewers play on Sunday.
Union Pines grad Drew Robinson, who was the starting pitcher for North Carolina Central against Maness and East Carolina in a 2010 game, is currently at the Parris Island (S.C.) Marine Base for basic training. At a recent summer baseball league game between Pinecrest and Union Pines, his father, Greg, indicated he hopes to go on to officer training school.
Robinson was all-conference in baseball and football for the Vikings.
Before going to N.C. Central, he was a member of the 2009 Southeast Community College team that won the Division II Region 10 championship.
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