Enjoying The Moment

PHILIPPI – Al Johnson is enjoying every second on the baseball field this spring.

Because the Philip Barbour multi-sport standout knows his high school career is about to close, and it’s something he thinks about.

“I can’t believe how fast it has went,” Johnson said. “It just seems like yesterday I was a freshman. It will be emotional when (the baseball) season ends because I know that will be it for my high school playing days.”

Johnson will leave as one of the top athletes ever to don a Columbia blue and white uniform.

He was a Class AA all-state first-team selection as a defensive back in football this past season in helping the Colts to a playoff berth. On the offensive side, Johnson collected 50 receptions for 702 yards and 12 scores, while being an explosive weapon on special teams as well.

Johnson also excelled on the basketball court, but believes his future is on the diamond.

“I plan to go to college and play baseball,” he said. “Baseball seems to give me the best opportunity to play at the next level.”

Philip Barbour coach Jonathan Carpenter said mentoring Johnson has been a privilege.

“I may coach another 25 years and not see an athlete like Al Johnson,” Carpenter said. “He’s such a phenomenal player that commands respect on the field. He’s always positive and will do anything to win.”

Carpenter said Johnson had emerged from being a young talented player to a talented veteran leader.

“I’ve seen him mature over the years,” he said. “His leadership really came through for us last year when we were 4-12 on the season. He kept the team together and we were able to make a nice run and win a sectional title.”

Johnson’s team-first attitude has been evident this year. When the Colts needed a catcher after the graduation loss of all-stater Doug Smith, he stepped in behind the plate, leaving his center-field post, where he was one of the top defensive outfielders in the state last spring.

“Coach Carpenter said catcher is where he needed me,” Johnson said. “It puts me in a position to use my leadership qualities and direct the team. I’m willing to play wherever I need to in helping us win games.”

Johnson, who also suits up for the Elkins Post 29 American Legion team during the summer, and the Colts have currently won six of their last seven games.

“I?think we’re starting to play better as a team,” Johnson said. “We need to continue doing that and finish the season strong.”