Troy Johnston’s time with Rogers High baseball is coming to an end.
It’s been a long time coming for Johnston. For nearly two decades, it has always been about Rogers High or Rams athletics. And all through all that time, it has been a life of baseball.
“My first words was ‘ball,’ even,” Johnston joked. “I always had to carry one with me.”
And, just as prevalent, it was about Rogers’ sports.
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I was fortunate to grow up with a coach as a father. He knows when to be a coach, and he knows when to step away and be my father.
For more than 18 years, Johnston, a Gonzaga University signee, has been a part of the Rogers sports scene with his father, David, spending the last two decades as the boys wrestling coach as well as a teacher at Rogers. It’s been easy for someone to become immersed into the Rams community.
Over a decade ago, it was a common sight to see David Johnston walking around campus recruiting one student after another to help his wrestling program grow. It was a sales pitch the coach would make, one backed by a sense of pride in the community he had built.
And just as often as David made these pitches, there was Troy in tow, then a 4-year-old becoming baptized in what it meant to be a Ram.
“Not every kid has that opportunity to get to be around kids, athletes at school. He kind of grew up a Ram,” David said. “All the kids (alumni) took him in — they showed him the way to be a Ram. It’s never been work — it’s been something we enjoyed to do in spending time together.”
“I was fortunate to grow up with a coach as a father,” Troy said. “He knows when to be a coach, and he knows when to step away and be my father. It’s a relationship that we’ve always had, and it’s only grown more with the time we spend together with baseball.”
It’s been a long time coming for Troy’s senior season with Rogers baseball, a four-year starter with the tendency to spray the ball all over the field from the left side of the plate.
Johnston’s lifetime of baseball has led the senior to becoming one of the top hitters in the Class 4A South Puget Sound League.
Johnston enters the week sporting a career .486 batting average (.558 on base percentage) with 89 hits over 66 games. Johnston has also scored 48 runs while driving in 46 runs during his career with Rogers.
But Troy has power — maybe not traditional power — but he hits the ball with authority from gap to gap.
Rogers coach Matt Whitehead
But it’s been his power — or lack thereof — that has plagued Johnston’s prospects during his time in the SPSL South Division.
“That’s one area I hope to improve on this year: Show I can hit with a little more power,” Johnston said of his 27 total extra-base hits. “But I’m going to stay within myself, within what I know I can do.”
Even though Johnston has been Rogers’ clean-up hitter the last couple of seasons, his lack of power has never been a concern of coach Matt Whitehead. What Johnston does for Rogers is too invaluable to put anywhere else.
“He reminds of Michael Sexton a little bit, hitting from the left side,” Whitehead said of his outfielder. “They both have a quick swing, and they understand what they need to do during any at-bat. But Troy has power — maybe not traditional power — but he hits the ball with authority from gap to gap.”
With a history of putting the ball in play and moving runners over, Whitehead added, there’s no need to ask Johnston to change his approach.
I remember when he was young, he would wait for me to come home with a bucket of balls, just so I could throw it to him.
Power can be overrated at the high school level.
“You don’t ask someone to fix something that isn’t broke,” Whitehead said with a laugh.
Down the path
From the moment he uttered his first words, Johnston has set down the long baseball road. Baseball has always been a part of who he was growing up — it has stitched itself into his soul.
For now, Johnston has decided it’s about his high school season, and next year will be the start of his journey with the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The immediate present and future have been set.
“I remember when he was young, he would wait for me to come home with a bucket of balls, just so I could throw it to him,” David said. “Troy has made it a point to do something he felt proud of.”
But the future? That’s still unknown. Yet one thing is for certain, baseball will always be there in Johnston’s life.
“I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing later on down in life, but I know baseball will be a part of it,” Johnston said. “I know that baseball will always be something I do in my life, whether it’s playing or coaching, I want to be a part of the game anyway I can.”
I just don’t see my life heading any other way.”