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Former O's pitcher gives encouragement to campers

July 31, 2002|by DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

dank@herald-mail.com

THURMONT, Md. - You may not be the biggest or the strongest, but if you work hard and play by the rules you can be successful, former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson told the summer campers at American Legion Camp West-Mar.

The two-week summer camp is for boys ages 9 to 12 from Washington, Frederick and Carroll counties in Maryland.

On Tuesday, the 63 campers listened to Johnson explain how he made it to the major leagues.

Johnson is one of three Dave Johnsons with whom Orioles fans might be familiar. There's Davey Johnson, the former second baseman who later managed the team, and the Dave Johnson who pitched for the Orioles in the mid-1970s.

The Johnson who spoke to the campers Tuesday was an Orioles pitcher from 1989 through 1991.

Johnson, 42, grew up in Baltimore. He played baseball, but said he wasn't the best, he just loved to play.

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In high school, Johnson played on the junior varsity team when he was in the 11th grade and then varsity baseball his senior year.

Johnson said he was an "ordinary" player, but he worked hard.

After high school, he drove a tractor-trailer for a little more than a year before enrolling in what was then the Community College of Baltimore. He played baseball in college and then moved on to the minor leagues, where he played for a Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate.

"I was fortunate enough to play with Barry Bonds. It all came from working hard," he told the campers.

"We're all average and ordinary, and everybody in here can do special things," Johnson said. "To be special you've got to set yourself apart. Do what you're supposed to do and do it to the best of your ability ... Give yourself the opportunity to do special things."

Camper Grailing Shawn Mills, 12, of Clear Spring, said Johnson's talk was good.

"He told us how he grew up and to stand out. It was cool," Mills said.

Camper Ricky Springer, 12, of Hagerstown said it was nice of Johnson to talk to the campers.

Johnson said he enjoys speaking with youngsters because it shows them that professional athletes are just ordinary people who "had the opportunity to do special things because we worked harder."

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