Dishon Earning his Tiger Stripes
It was six o’clock in the evening and a sparse crowd wilted under the oppressive heat and humidity of an August afternoon in southeast Texas.
The second offensive series for the Bridge City Cardinals was not going much better than the first when quarterback, Johnny Dishon, took a direct snap, eluded a blitzing linebacker, and tight roped his way down the far sideline.
The inevitable collision left him buried beneath a pile of defensive players in no hurry to grant the youngster his freedom. A teammate helped him to his feet, but it was apparent that he was now a little gimpy at best. Undaunted, he adjusted his pads, acknowledged the play of the nearest defender with pat on the shoulder pads, and nursed an obvious limp back to the huddle.
“His folks have to cringe with every hit he takes, but that kid is such a competitor that you are not going to get him off the field,” pointed out an opposing coach scouting the scrimmage. “I wish he’d stick with baseball, but we are going to have to deal with him in football, track, and probably anything else that involves a ball. He is some kind of an athlete!”
That glowing evaluation of the Cardinal senior a year ago proved to be right on the money. Every parent lives in fear of their youngster getting hurt in an athletic contest, but very few had as much on the line as did Johnny Dishon.
Prior to his senior year, Dishon had already been deemed good enough at baseball for the LSU Tigers to offer him a full ride. In an era when a growing number of high school athletes opt to pass on other sports in hopes of excelling at their strongest game, Dishon chose to take the opposite route.
I spoke with his dad at a youth football game before the season ever started and he acknowledged that he was concerned, but would not interfere with his son’s wishes. “I am a little worried only in that we lost a lot of good players off last year’s team and I am sure he will get a lot of attention from everyone we play,” said his dad.
To no one’s surprise and his family’s relief, the high flying Cardinal stayed relatively healthy and enjoyed an incredible senior year excelling in not only baseball, but football and track as well. He did in fact decide to continue his education and inked to play baseball in Baton Rouge.
With South Carolina already in town for a crucial three game series this weekend, I was surprised that any coach would answer the phone at Alex Box Stadium. Much to my relief, hitting coach, Cliff Godwin, took the call and was more than happy to talk about Dishon’s progress thus far.
“His modest numbers at this point do not reflect his value to our club,” pointed out Godwin. “Most folks do not realize how hard it is for a freshman to come in and play as well as he has in the Southeast Conference.”
Godwin was quick to point out that Dishon was one of the three fastest kids on a squad that includes a wide receiver and defensive back off their national champion football squad. “He may actually be the fastest in a straight up race, but certainly none of them are any faster on the base paths. He has such great instincts and knowledge of the game that he gains an extra step on most kids.”
Dishon’s accomplishments his senior year in high school alone did little to refute Godwin’s assessment. After a stellar fall of football where he played both ways, accounted for 1700 yards of offense, and earned all-district honors, he lit it up in both track and baseball as well.
Even a shortage of daylight hours could not prevent him from excelling at both track and baseball at the same time. An outstanding long jumper and sprinter, he managed to earn all-district honors and led his teammates into post-season competition in spite of limited practice time.
It was his prowess, however, as a baseball player that gained him national recognition. The “do everything” athlete owned centerfield with his powerful throwing arm and incredible foot speed. According to Godwin, while his future appears to be in the outfield with the Tigers, his arm alone has also earned him a spot as a catcher should that need arise in a game!
A gaudy .488 batting average that included 15 home runs and 23 stolen bases earned him a spot on the prestigious Rawling’s All American squad in 2007. His name was also included on the top 100 players list at the end of the year.
“Just like any young player, he arrived with some minor technical flaws in his swing, but that is to be expected,” said Godwin. “He was a power hitter in high school, but with his speed and athleticism all he has to do is hit the ball hard and the rest will take care of itself. While he is our first pinch runner off the bench, he has also drawn several starting assignments this year and played well”
A catcher’s worst nightmare, Dishon has attempted three steals entering the weekend series and has yet to be thrown out.
Coach Godwin ended our conversation with the following statement. “Johnny has proven to be an even better athlete than we could have ever anticipated and his work ethic is phenomenal. There is no limit to his potential and there is no doubt that he is going to be a great player for us in the very near future!”