Southwest Washington Senior All-Star baseball games among the many events called off this spring
The games usually are played two days after Memorial Day.
Fitting, because the MVP plaques are named after a fallen soldier, Jeremiah Jewel Johnson.
This year, due to a quirk in the calendar, the Southwest Washington Senior All-Star baseball games would have been next week, not this week. Of course, that doubleader will not be happening.
No spring sports. No championship weekend. No post-season all-star games.
The Clark County baseball community can still honor one of its heroes, though.
Jeremiah Johnson graduated from Prairie High School in 2001. A few months later, the world changed forever with the attacks on Sept. 11. Johnson joined the U.S. Army.
In late 2006, Cpl. Johnson, a husband, a father, and a son, was injured in Iraq in a vehicle crash. He died in January of 2007.
To honor their son through the years, David and Beth Johnson, along with the Evergreen Baseball Umpires Association, have given a scholarship to the MVPs of the all-star games. That will not happen this year, but David Johnson said the plan is to return in 2021 and beyond.
“We always love to go,” David Johnson said of the games. “It’s good to see all the talent that is there.”
That talent reminds them of their son, who loved the game and stole hits from opposing players with his diving catches in center field. Jeremiah Johnson was named Prairie’s defensive player of the year for his web gems as a senior.
David Johnson enjoys thinking back on Jeremiah’s playing days. It started when Jeremiah was in T-ball. He loved the game immediately. David coached his son until Jeremiah was 15. Jeremiah played club ball as well as high school.
David remembered one game when Jeremiah was playing for Prairie when Jeremiah hit three line drives for three base hits to exactly the same spot, the ball landing just a few feet in front of the left fielder. Every time.
His coach, Don Freeman, jokingly told Jeremiah that next time he needed to use the whole field.
Every year, David gets to share at least one baseball story with the current stars. It has been 19 years since Jeremiah graduated from high school, meaning that this year’s seniors were not even born when Jeremiah played his last high school game.
But for a few minutes every year, the current stars get to hear all about Jeremiah Johnson.
“The young men are always grateful. It does make an impression when they see Jeremiah’s picture on the plaque,” David Johnson said. “They understand what it’s all about.”
In fact, on this Memorial Day, Beth received a text from a mother of a 2017 recipient of the scholarship. The mom said the plaque still proudly hangs on the wall of the family home, and that her family was thinking of the Johnson family on that solemn day.
Other former winners have written letters to the Johnson family, thanking them for their sacrifice.
“It’s always a good feeling when people remember Jeremiah,” David Johnson said. “When they talk about remembering him, it gives meaning …”
“My wife says it keeps him alive.”
That goes with the message on Jeremiah’s gravestone: “In our hearts forever.”
The Johnson family also wants to thank the umpires association for paying for half of the scholarship. Besides being a solid baseball player, Jeremiah was also a good sport, his dad said.
“I appreciate their desire to honor Jeremiah,” David said.
No scholarship, no MVPs this year, of course. The response to the pandemic called off, among many things, high school baseball.
Former baseball player and soldier Jeremiah Johnson will always be remembered. By those who knew him. And by the future players who will get to know him, even if with just a picture, a plaque, and a brief baseball story.