Looking Back with Luke Johnson

There have been many talented players that have helped shape Top Tier Baseball into the program it is today. These players poured in hours upon hours over the years. Late nights with plenty of sweat, blood, puke, trash-talk, and good old-fashioned competition. Luke Johnson (2014 Class) was one of those players. By the time he graduated, he became the second ever Top Tier Chris Massimilian Award winner. (Click here to see the video.) After graduating this past spring, Luke took some time to talk with us and look back on things. He opened up about his time spent with Top Tier, his journey through the recruiting process, and some of his favorite memories. 

Tell us about your experience with Top Tier and how it impacted you as a player?

I began playing Top Tier my freshman year in high school, and proceeded to play four years of it. This organization helped shape me into the baseball player I became and helped aid in my development as a man. One of the most important characteristics I learned was working hard... really working hard. I went from being an alright player in high school to an all-conference D1 SS, through working as hard as I possibly could. The best part was that I wasn’t alone, there were several other teammates that worked just as hard. Top Tier’s competitive and family-like culture allows players to grow into the best players and people they can be.

I remember running suicide sprints my 15u year with Kyle Colletta until we would throw up and then taking what seemed like another hundred ground balls. I remember hitting with Cal Coughlin in a barn at midnight, on school nights (don’t tell my mom I was out past curfew). I remember working out with Adam Walton (who was much faster and stronger than me) 4+ days a week and ending up near a puke bucket just about every time. I remember running gassers with Nate Tholl and him passing out on our last one. I remember Kevin Sullivan toasting me in countless sprints but still talking smack and giving it everything I had. There were so many other players that had aspirations to play at the college and pro level. Those guys pushed me to be a better all-around player.

Tell us about your experience so far in college, what are you looking forward to next?

In May, I graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in Economics while starting 2.5 of my 4 years at both SS and 2B. Additionally, I was a captain for both my junior and senior years, which to me is my biggest accomplishment. As a freshman, I came into a veteran team who was defending a conference championship, so I didn’t play much. I put my head down, went to work and by the end of my sophomore year I became an everyday starter. I’ve played baseball since I was four, so it was extremely difficult to hang up my spikes. That being said, I am excited for the next chapter of my life. I’m not sure what the future holds, but that’s the best part.

Talk a little bit about the recruiting process and how everything went down.

Coach Duffy helped to find good fit schools for me. I was looking at high academic schools with competitive baseball, both D1 and D3. I sent out a video to these schools and then most of them watched me play my 17u summer. I visited a handful of schools, and I really was able to see myself fitting in at Bucknell. About a week after my official visit, they gave me an offer and I knew I had to take it.

What were some of the priorities you looked at when deciding where you wanted to attend college?

When I looked at colleges, I prioritized a balance of academics and baseball. I wanted to be able to go somewhere that could help set me up for life. I leveraged my baseball ability to be able to look at some stretch schools. I had been in communication with the Harvard coaches for a while, and even went on a visit. I had very good grades in high school, but not quite Harvard-good. This is where baseball came in and gave me an edge in the admissions offices. For all young players: unless you’re in the top 1% of players in the country, you need to have good grades. This allows so many more colleges to look at you. College coaches love seeing high school kids with good academic records because not only is it easier for them to get into the school, but a lot of coaches think academics are an indicator of work ethic and discipline.

What are some of the goals you have set for yourself as a college baseball player and beyond?

I set a pretty loose goal of wanting to become the best possible player I could be. This is generic, yeah I know, but hear me out. My freshman year I had a meeting with Coach Duffy to discuss college plans. He basically told me I was on track to be an average D3 player. Now at that age I didn’t really know what I wanted out of baseball, but the one thing I did know was how to work hard and be relentless about it. Since that moment 7+ years ago, I can tell you straight up that I gave everything I had to become the best player possible. Late night workouts, lifts before school, hitting Friday nights, speed training Saturday mornings. You name it, and I did it. I didn’t know how average I was as a freshman in high school, and without Coach Duffy being transparent, I wouldn’t have been an all-conference D1 SS.

What advice would you give a high school player going through the recruiting process?

Do something that makes you stand out—be relentless. The Bucknell coach that found me said he first noticed how, being a SS, I would hustle off the field and beat the 3rd basemen into the 3rd base dugout… Harvard said the same thing… so did Dartmouth. I got onto the radars of these schools because I played harder and grittier than people.

Is there anybody you would like to give a shout-out or thanks to?

There are so many people I need to thank, but that would take up a couple pages. So, I’ll keep it short. A big thank you goes to Todd, Duffy, Plante and Griff. You welcomed me into Top Tier, pushed me harder than I thought possible and made me feel like family at the same time.

Also, a big thanks to Adam Walton. When I joined Top Tier, he was the face of the program and I’m grateful he took me under his wing. I lifted and did speed training with him, along with hitting and fielding, 4+ days a week for two years. I think I really grew into a leader after seeing how Walt mentored me and pushed me. After he showed me the ropes, I began to work with as many younger guys as possible. I always loved seeing these guys achieve success both on and off the field.

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