While most eyes in the sports world are on Augusta for today's final round of the 2002 Masters, the eyes of many in the Chicago Cubs' front office are planted firmly on Lansing, Mich.
Because it's the home of former Greenbrier star J.J. Johnson, and soon he could be bombing home runs over the ivy-covered wall at Wrigley Field.
Johnson, a 6-3, 195 pound outfielder, is off to a great start this spring. Through Lansing's first four games he is hitting a lofty .438 with a team-leading six RBI. Obviously it is early to start talking league MVP, but Johnson is certainly an early favorite.
Also, this is not Johnson's first taste of professional success. After finishing a brilliant career at Greenbrier, J.J. (Jonathon Jermaine) was selected in the sixth round by the Cubs and since then, he has been sensational.
In the summer of 2000, while most of his friends were going to the beach or playing in a recreational league, he was in Mesa, Ariz., playing rookie ball.
Johnson didn't disappoint. After a season that saw him hit .316 with 43 RBI and only 19 strikeouts in 177 at bats in 44 games, Johnson was dubbed the fifth-best prospect in the Arizona League.
Last season was even better. Playing with the Cubs' single A affiliate in Boise, Idaho, Johnson was chosen as the top prospect in the Northwest League by Baseball America and was an overwhelming all-star choice.
For the year, Johnson hit .317 in 70 games with seven homers, 61 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Topps names him their league player of the year.
"J.J. is a legitimate five-tool player who just oozes potential," said one big league scout.
This 20-year-old has even bigger things ahead. With his size, ability and work ethic, he is what people in baseball call a "can't miss" prospect. He's a couple of years away, but Johnson has major league written all over him.
Ashley Brown's radio program can be heard from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday on News-Talk Sports 1630 AM. His e-mail address is AB@WRDWAM.com.
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