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Prep baseball: Woods Cross’ Alex Johnson is 2016 Tribune Player of the Year

First Published      Last Updated Jun 14 2016 07:08 pm


Alex Johnson’s buy-in turned Woods Cross into an offensive juggernaut.

Woods Cross • Trevor Amicone didn't want to overwhelm his new team on the first day on the job. He'd accepted the head coaching position for the Woods Cross baseball program, and he was eager to get started.

It was football season, so many players were absent, and rather than delve into the intricacies of the game, Amicone aimed for establishing rapport while discovering what he'd be dealt in the talent department.

"We were watching them take ground balls, and [we] saw a theme with all of them on 'things were going to change,' " Amicone reminisces. "We stopped the drill and pulled them all together and said, 'Hey, I want you guys to start doing this.' "



Alex Johnson, then entering his junior season, chimed in and questioned the instruction, protesting it was counter to what he'd been taught during his career.

"I literally had known him for 20 minutes," Amicone said, "and Alex goes, 'That doesn't seem right. Why would we do that?'  "

The skepticism between player and staff remained until midway through the season when Johnson invested in the program philosophy. Amicone said he made the decision to "screw it" and "buy into everything we were doing. He was all in from there on out."

The change in attitude made all the difference for Johnson — whom Amicone said was born with "God-given stuff" — and helped him blossom into a budding star in the second half of his junior season. Then, as offseason workouts progressed before his senior year, Amicone and his staff understood they were about to witness something special.

They couldn't have been more right.

Playing shortstop and pitcher, Johnson dominated in every fashion, helping the Wildcats score 330 runs — the most by any program in the two largest classifications in state history. He finished with a .628 batting average (10th highest all-time), 54 hits (2nd most all-time), 10 doubles, eight triples, four homers, 45 RBIs, a .704 on-base and 1.070 slugging percentages, 12 stolen bases, and a 7-2 win-loss record on the mound with a 1.07 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 521⁄3 innings pitched.

"There were series we had where teams didn't get him out. I think he hit every mistake thrown at him all year long, and that's a special thing," Amicone said.

Johnson devoted himself to the program and success followed. In his final high school season, his performance never fluctuated, whether it was against lower-tier region teams, in the state tournament, or against top-caliber programs from California — Johnson delivered every single game this season, and for that reason he has been named The Tribune's 2016 Player of the Year.

"It's freaking awesome. It's a great feeling," said Johnson. "I was very surprised. Looking back on the season, playing all these teams — they all had very good players. It was just surprising to me."

Johnson is headed southbound this August to play baseball for Dixie State. He committed early, yet although he is capable of playing Division I baseball, he never wavered in his decision. He's witnessed first-hand what fully investing into something can accomplish. "Dixie State is where I want to be," Johnson explains, both for baseball and education, as he plans to study digital forensics to pursue a career in policing internet-related crime.

Johnson was an integral part of the foundation of seniors that reshaped the impression of Woods Cross baseball. Excitement is at an all-time high after consecutive region championships, as more than 50 freshmen currently are participating in summer workouts.

"I definitely think we had an impact in baseball," Johnson says. "We all changed it. It's totally different. I think before, not many kids were friends with the other guys, and it made it not so fun. I think now, us older guys are starting to mesh with the younger ones and help them out."

Amicone speaks fondly of his future plans of traveling to St. George to watch Johnson play. He's already started making plans to have lunch with one his favorite players he's ever coached. Together, Amicone and Johnson were a part of 48 wins in two years. What started out as Johnson questioning instruction evolved into a player Amicone uses an example to build his entire program on.

"He holds himself accountable. He has this attitude, it's almost like an aura of, 'I'm going to be the hardest-working guy here,' " Amicone explains. "He wasn't going to work hard until practice was over; he wasn't going to work hard until the drill was over — he was going to work hard until he got it right. That was the thing with Alex that made him special."

tphibbs@sltrib.com

Twitter: @trevorphibbs

 

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AT A GLANCE

About Alex Johnson

School » Woods Cross

Class » Senior

Position » Shortstop and pitcher

Height » 6 feet

Noteworthy » Johnson helped the Wildcats win consecutive region titles and accumulate 48 wins in two seasons. Playing shortstop and pitching, Johnson dominated in every fashion, helping the Wildcats score 330 runs — the most by any program in the two largest classifications in state history. He finished with a .628 batting average (10th highest all-time), 54 hits (2nd most all-time), 10 doubles, eight triples, four homers, 45 RBI, a .704 on-base and 1.070 slugging percentages, 12 stolen bases, and a 7-2 win-loss record on the mound, with a 1.07 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 521⁄3 innings pitched.


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