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Archive for Thursday, May 2, 1996

JOHNSTON SUPPLIES STICK FOR LIONS

May 2, 1996

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Like the main character in "The Natural," Lawrence High senior first baseman Andy Johnston constructed his own bat.

Unlike Roy Hobbs' bat, Johnston's was a fungo bat formed from white ash found at a Kansas City lumberyard. LHS head coach Lynn Harrod has used the bat for pregame infield drills since late last season.

"He takes great pride in that bat," Harrod said. "I've had kids give me fungos before but never make me one."

At first, Harrod was reluctant to use Johnston's fungo.

"I think I offended him when I didn't use it," said Harrod, who has used the bat before every game this year. "He looked dejected. I sure don't want to break the bat."

Bat production is just one of Johnston's many talents. Known for his dexterity, Johnston's teammates refer to him as MacGyver.

"Supposedly, I can fix anything or do anything," Johnston said of the story behind the nickname.

Johnston recently fixed his batting stroke. Mired in a slump the first half of the season, Johnston broke loose in a doubleheader against Shawnee Mission Northwest two weeks ago when he went 5-for-8 with five RBIs. He had a double and home run in both games of the twinbill.

Six-of-24 before the outburst, Johnston's batting average has climbed to .356 heading into the final week of the regular season.

"I'm seeing the ball a lot better and waiting on pitches," Johnston said of the recent success. "Before I was too anxious to do well and impress everybody.

"It (the SM Northwest doubleheader) was kind of a turning point. I worked real hard all week on hitting. It all sort of came together."

During the slump, Johnston briefly lost his starting position at first base.

"It was deserved," Johnston said of the benching. "I wasn't doing much of anything at the plate. You have to be able to hit the ball to play."

Johnston's two home runs tie Shane Wedd and Nick Wood for the team lead. Johnston and Wedd are the Lions' heftiest players with the heartiest appetites at the weekly team dinners.

"Shane and I like to eat a lot," Johnston said. "It helps us hit the ball far. I try not to eat as much during baseball season. You have to eat some for energy to run with (assistant) coach (Ron) Garvin."

Johnston is in the running to be Lawrence High's 1996 valedictorian. He has a 4.0 grade point average while taking advanced placement classes.

He hopes to use his MacGyver-ness in college as a mechanical engineering student or in some sort of engineering field.

Before deciding on a college, Johnston will savor the Lions' successful baseball season.

"We seem to be coming together," he said. "Hopefully we'll peak at sub-state and carry it into state."

In Tuesday's doubleheader against SM West, Johnston went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a sacrifice bunt. Also, he slid headfirst into third base, hustling from first following a single.

"Hopefully I'm getting quicker," he said. "I've gotten quicker over the years. I'm still not a speed demon."

For now, he'll stick to MacGyver as a nickname and not Speed Demon.

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