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Bovard manager Mike Johnson a baseball fanatic

| Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, 9:12 p.m.
Mike Johnson hits in the batting cage on September 13, 2012 in Bovard. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Mike Johnson doesn't allow his age, 43, to prevent him from playing competitive baseball with the younger players.

In fact, the Hempfield Township native plays on four teams during the year and all of the teams are very good.

He was player/manager of the Bovard team that won consecutive Indiana County League titles. It was the first time in his 24 years of playing for Bovard that the team celebrated a title.

He also played for another Bovard team in the Pittsburgh Baseball over-28 League that lost in the league championship game to a team from Pittsburgh earlier this month.

He's playing for Dino's in the Latrobe/Derry over-40 League, and Johnson expects to challenge for the title.

Next month he'll be headed to Fort Myers, Fla. to play for another Pittsburgh-based team in the Roy Hobbs World Series. Pittsburgh was the winner last year, and Johnson pitched during the tournament.

“I was hoping for the trifecta,” Johnson said about winning the three league titles. “We came up a little short.”

But it's the Bovard team in the Indiana County League that puts a smile on Johnson's face. His versatility allows him to play all over the infield. He also pitches in relief, and last year in Fort Myers, his fastball was clocked at 85 mph.

“I used to throw 89-90 when I was younger,” Johnson said. “Then I had shoulder problems. I do a lot of exercises, and the shoulder hasn't been an issue.”

Bovard has been one of the top teams in the Indiana County League the past five seasons. Johnson has been able to assemble plenty of talent from around Greensburg.

“We've received a lot of support from the Bovard Fire Department, the community and Flash,” Johnson said. “They like to watch us play, and Flash makes sure the field is always ready to play. We've also had great sponsors in the Ash Club and Tom's Bar. I know the players from both teams are appreciative of their support.”

Johnson, a 1987 graduate of Hempfield Area High School and a 1991 graduate of Indiana (Pa.), has played for Bovard since he was 20.

He's also coached at Westmoreland County Community College with Mike Draghi, and was an assistant and then head coach at Pitt Greensburg.

Currently, he helps good friend Tim Buzzard at Hempfield.

“I love the game,” Johnson said. “I like going to the Pirates' games and college games.

“Baseball is like a hobby for me. It's my passion. When I play or coach, it doesn't feel like a job.”

Johnson said it is pretty much baseball all of the time except for November, December and early January.

He said a loving and understanding wife, Bridget, and a daughter, Shawna, are his biggest supporters and they allow him to continue to play.

“They are there for me, and I'm there for my daughter when I watch her cheer at football and basketball games,” Johnson said.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at pschofield@tribweb.com or 724-836-5095.

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