Connor Johnson, a Keene State College senior majoring in criminal justice and a relief pitcher on the Keene State men’s baseball team, handles the pressure of performance better than most. In fact, Johnson said he “eats it up.”
For senior collegiate athletes, the pressure of making the last season count builds on top of making the last semester count. “I like to put a lot of pressure on myself… because I am far from perfect… but say we have a three run lead, and I go in and give up one run, that’s not acceptable to me,” Johnson said.
The pressure of being in the diamond is nothing new to him. Johnson has been playing baseball since he could walk, following alongside his brother who also ended up playing baseball in college.
However, the years of wear and tear have not been easy on Johnson’s body which has suffered through several major injuries during his college career. His first year, Johnson had an L4-L5 discectomy, a spinal surgery. Johnson was also diagnosed with Cuboid Syndrome in both feet during his sophomore and junior year. Johnson explained that doctors said this syndrome could have painful consequences. “If I for too far of a distance, a piece of my foot will dislocate,” Johnson said.
Cagney Brigham, the assistant baseball coach on the team, managed to see the silver lining in all of Johnson’s injuries.
In an email, Brigham said, “I think [his injuries] really gave him the mindset of hard work and competing compared to most of the other guys because Connor HAD to work to get back on the field for us in any capacity.”
Johnson’s most recent injury, which he is now healed from, was a right groin tear in the fall.
“I just threw a pitch and felt a pop and didn’t really tell anybody about it for a couple weeks, kept throwing with it, made it worse… you know, the stuff athletes do,” Johnson said.
Johnson has used his own experiences with injuries to guide some of the younger players on the team.
Gregory Esposito, a Keene State first-year majoring in physical education and a pitcher on the team, spoke about how Johnson gave advice. Esposito said, “[Johnson] helped me when I was deciding if I wanted to take a redshirt year.”
Esposito says that that is not where the advice ends with Johnson, however.
“One of the main ways he has helped me is [with] pitching philosophy. What to throw in certain situations, where I want a pitch to go, stuff like that,” Esposito said. “Connor is a great teammate who competes day in and day out.”
Brigham had similar things to say about the senior pitcher in his email interview.
“Connor is one of the most compassionate kids I have ever met. He’s always positive and puts others before him. He’s also extremely driven… Connor works his tail off,” Brigham said.
Johnson’s next game is Friday, May 3, against the Western Connecticut Colonials at home. First pitch is at 12:00 p.m.
Claire Boughton can be contacted