Matt Padgett laughs as teammates take turns batting Wednesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
Matt Padgett laughs as teammates take turns batting Wednesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. (Daily Record/Sunday News: Kate Penn)

Oh, he's got a name, but some players -- and we mean a lot of players -- might just want to call Josh Johnson crazy.

The Revolution catcher wants to be in York. He had a job with a major league organization. He had a paycheck. He had the opportunity to play in the San Diego Padres organization -- maybe backdoor his way into the majors if some weird stuff happened.

But Johnson turned down the Padres.

Now there's a catch.

The Padres wanted to place him on what players and team officials call the phantom disabled list. Johnson is healthy, but organizations can hide a player from other teams when he's on the DL. Players on the DL don't eat roster spots. So a team can keep him available and call him up when and where they need him.

The Revolution offered him a job as a catcher. No strings attached, just the stigma of playing in a league without any major league affiliations.

Given the choice, most players would take their chances with an organization, but Johnson wanted to play.

Now here's a player worth watching.

Follow his line of reasoning: He turned down re-signing with the Tampa Bay Rays and playing in their farm system because he had already been pegged as something other than an everyday catcher. That's why he signed with the Padres. Now the Padres wanted to do the same sort of thing, play him as a defensive backup.


Advertisement

He couldn't put himself in the same situation again.

"All the coaches in Durham the last three years said the same thing, I need an opportunity to play every day," Johnson said. "I've done the backup thing. I've done the jumping on and off the roster act. I feel like it's time to prove myself.

"I really had to kick it around," he said. "No one wants to leave affiliated baseball. Guys are dying to get in."

Johnson has a career batting average of .191 in eight minor league seasons.

Ouch.

Ryan Goleski waits for the pitch while practicing with the York Revolution during spring training Wednesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium.
Ryan Goleski waits for the pitch while practicing with the York Revolution during spring training Wednesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. (Daily Record/Sunday News: Kate Penn)

But he's never appeared in more than 48 games in a season. He has always been the other guy. So, he sits on the bench for a week or two weeks and waits for his chance.

The other catcher hit the laser home runs. The other catcher drove in the runs.

Johnson did his homework. He learned every personality and preference of the pitching staff. He went out to dinners with teammates. He stayed late in the clubhouse. And he learned how to handle every pitcher. He could play defense. He could call a good game.

"That's what got me to Triple-A at such a young age," said Johnson, who made his International League debut at 23 years old.

People might call him crazy, but he's not. Honest. He's taking a big risk, but it's a smart risk.

From left, Rayner Bautista, Matt Esquivel and Kevin Kotch spend a few minutes throwing on the field during spring training Wednesday at Sovereign Bank
From left, Rayner Bautista, Matt Esquivel and Kevin Kotch spend a few minutes throwing on the field during spring training Wednesday at Sovereign Bank Stadium. Rain kept the players off the field for most of the day. (Daily Record/Sunday News: Kate Penn)

Look at another suspected no-hit catcher the Revs signed. Go back to the inaugural 2007 season and study Greg Brown's stats. He batted .175 in four professional seasons, but -- like Johnson -- he never played a full season. He never appeared in more than 35 games.

All he did was bat a career-high .273 in 51 games, leading the team back into playoff contention with an unreal July and August. Brown didn't have the storybook ending as a player. He never earned a contract out of the Atlantic League. He retired to pursue a career in scouting. But when he left the team near the end of the season, emotional teammates sat in the dugout -- just waiting to walk with him back to the clubhouse and say goodbye.

There's some history with this type of maneuver.

And some risk.

But it's far from crazy.
Jim Seip covers the Atlantic League and the York Revolution for the Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at 771-2025 or jseip@ydr.com.