Tanner Johnson is Mr. Versatility for the South Oldham High School baseball team.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound catcher/outfielder is a senior standout for the Dragons. Last season, Johnson, who has signed with the University of Kentucky, hit .433 and tallied six home runs, 12 doubles and 32 RBIs.
“He’s very versatile,” South Oldham coach Matt Walker said. “He can catch, he can play outfield. So far he’s hit leadoff for us this year because he’s got good wheels, too. And he handles the bat well.”
Q: How and when did you start playing baseball?
A: My dad played baseball at Western Kentucky in college until he hurt his arm, so pretty much since I was born I was going to play baseball. But I probably started when I was 3, I guess. It’s always been my favorite sport.
Q: Have you always been a catcher?
A: Pretty much for the past six or seven years, all I’ve done is catch, but recently I’ve been getting into more outfield. Originally I hated catching. I was like the average kid. I just liked to run around and stuff. But then I started liking catching because you got to be in on every play.
Q: Are you going to see more time in the outfield this season?
A: I think I should because last year I caught almost every single game except for like two, so I got really tired at the end of the year. It just comes with the territory. So this year, I think they’re trying to take a little stress off me for the end of the year.
Q: What do you like about playing in the outfield?
A: I like having a ball that you think is just out of reach, then being able to go get it. That’s always a good feeling. Of course, throwing in and throwing somebody out is great, too. Which is another thing I like about catching is throwing people out, too.
Q: What’s been one of your most memorable games?
A: At Simon Kenton last year, I had three (home runs) in one game. That was probably the most memorable for me because I hadn’t even hit a home run in high school until that point, so that was pretty crazy. It was just one of those days. They were throwing me everything, the ball was just this big (making hands to beach-ball size).
Q: What are your goals this season?
A: Obviously at South, we’ve never won a region, which I think would be really cool for us to do, be a part of school history. We’ve won the (29th) district three years in row, so obviously, that’s good to get us in a good place for the region, but it doesn’t really matter as long as you’re able to get into the regional tournament. So we’re more concerned with the region, as long as we can get out of the districts. Obviously every year we want to beat North (Oldham) and OC (Oldham County) in both games if that’s possible. … Other than that I just want to go to state. I know a lot of the guys on the team do, too.
Q: Why UK?
A: Well everybody in my family are Big Blue fans. I had committed under the old coach, Coach (Keith) Henderson, I liked him a lot, but we got a new coach, Coach (Nick) Mingione, he’s great. We’re honestly, from what the preseason (rankings) were, they were saying we weren’t going to be that good. Now we’re ranked, 23, 24, 25 in a lot of polls, so he’s really turned it around this year. I like that a lot. And, what’s not to like about UK?
Q: So is it safe to say you picked the UK men’s basketball team to win the NCAA Tournament?
A: Oh yeah, always, every year.
Q: What about Friday night’s game against UCLA?
A: That’s UK by 20.
TANNER JOHNSON UP CLOSE
School: South Oldham.
Student-athlete: Tanner, who has a 4.09 GPA, is a member of the Beta Club, National Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes at South Oldham.
Family: Tanner, 18, lives with his mom, Tonya; dad, Jeff; and younger sister, Maddy, 14, who is a freshman at South Oldham.
South Oldham coach Matt Walker says: “He’s a good, hard-working kid. He’s a great leader, kind of a quiet leader. He leads by example, but he is starting to come out of his shell a little bit and has really taken on a strong leadership role within the team, which is good because we have a small senior class. We only have five seniors. He’s the kind of kid you’d want your son to be and the kind of kid you love to coach.”