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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Matty Johnson: The Independent Speedster of the Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have developed one of the best farm systems in all of baseball. In doing so, they have accumulated a wide array of prospects of varying skills. Outfielder Matty Johnson, at 5’8 and 165 pounds, may be one of the smaller players in the organization but he is not short on talent.

A native of Texas, the switch-hitting outfielder attended Watson Chapel High School in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Following graduation and a stint at junior college, he went on to attend Bellevue College in Washington, a NAIA school.
In two years at Bellevue, Johnson hit .429 and earned numerous honors for his fielding and overall play. Unfortunately, his body of work came in a small environment, and he went undrafted. That did not stop his baseball career.

In 2010, Johnson signed with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League. He went on to appear in 47 games that year, hitting .313 with 19 RBI, 43 runs scored and 24 stolen bases. It was enough to get him noticed by the Red Sox, who signed him to a free-agent contract.

Three years have passed since Johnson joined the Boston organization. He has reached as high as Triple-A Pawtucket, where he played one game this season. All told, he has appeared in 202 games in his minor league career, hitting .269 with a home run, 59 RBI and 47 stolen bases.

He doesn’t have a lot of power, but is incredibly speedy, gets on base and plays terrific defense. Those are all traits that are highly coveted by teams. If the 25-year-old continues his solid play, he has a great chance of one day playing in Boston.

Johnson answered some questions recently about his career. In addition to following his exploits on the field, make sure to keep up with him on Twitter @GoldGloveMJ.

Matty Johnson Interview:

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?
: My favorite player growing up was Ken Griffey Jr. I admired the way he played defense and always sold out to make a play, so I would always try to play defense like him growing up.

How did you wind up attending NAIA school Bellevue?: After two good years at my Juco Crowder College, I had some D-1 offers but the academic part wasn't there for me so I had to play summer ball and hope I got seen by someone. Luckily I had a good game when Bellevue was watching one day.

How disappointed were you to not get drafted or latch on with an MLB organization in 2010?: I was pretty disappointed after having a good season but not being able to play in the playoffs because we had to forfeit due someone playing ineligible. That limited my chances of being seen, which is why I went to the independent leagues.

What was your experience in independent ball like?: Playing independent was a great experience because it was pro ball and prepared me for affiliated ball. I played in the Frontier League, which was a great league all around. It had great crowds and nice stadiums, which made it exciting to play every day. Most guys had already played affiliated ball at the upper levels so it wasn't too hard to make the transition from Indy ball to affiliated.

How did you first find out that the Red Sox were interested in you?: I had never talked to the Red Sox before, not even in college. After the season, I heard I was being named top independent league prospect, then three weeks after the season my indy ball coach called me and said the Red Sox were interested and should be calling me in the next few minutes, and they did. So it was kind of out of the blue.

What was your reaction of friends and family when you signed with the Red Sox?: All of my friends were pretty excited and felt like it was well-deserved. My family really couldn't believe it because we had grown up watching the Red Sox and Yankees games in the playoffs, and it was just exciting having an opportunity to play pro ball, especially with a known franchise like the Red Sox. The Red Sox were my little brother’s favorite team growing up, so I'm pretty sure he was the most excited one out all of us.

What do you consider to be the best aspect of your game, and which could use the most work?: I think the best aspect of my game is my speed because I can cause a lot of havoc on the bases and even on defense taking away hits and stopping runners from getting extra bases.

I think the part of my game I can work on most is stealing bases. Most people say I should work on getting more power, but I think if I can get on base and steal bases at will and just dominate the base paths then I think I can be deadly without hitting a home run or the double and stuff like that. It never really occurred to me how deadly fast base running could be until I actually played against one.

What has been your proudest moment of your professional career to date?: My proudest moment of my professional career so far has to be this year winning the Carolina League title because it was fun to play with a group of guys that all worked together and wanted the same goal while having fun at the same time. I think playing on a team like that really just elevates everyone's individual talents.

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