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Jeff Johnson – Coach, Mentor, Legend in his own time

  • Written by 
Jeff Johnson Jeff Johnson

Jeff Johnson is a fixture at Chipola College and is known throughout high school, college, and major league baseball as the king of baseball.  Johnson is in his 21st season as the coach of the Chipola Indians baseball team in grand fashion with his SECOND WORLD SERIES TITLE.  Johnson also serves as the school’s athletic director.   

Johnson’s history goes back to the high school level where he began his career in 1989 at Marianna High School.  His success on the field was matched by his demands of his players to succeed in the classroom.  During his tenure at MHS, Johnson compiled a 127-48 record, earned three district championships, two regional championships, and one sub-regional.  He led the Bulldogs to their first state appearance in 1991.

Johnson returned to his home town in Liberty County in 1996 where he led his team to a 25-7 record with a runner-up finish in the state championship.  

Johnson took over the baseball program at Chipola in 1996.  Since his arrival at Chipola, his success has spread throughout the Panhandle and beyond.  Johnson has held his players at Chipola to the same degree of accountability as he did his high school players.  They have to maintain the grades to play under his leadership.  

Johnson’s players are his extended family as can be seen by the turnout at his annual alumnae weekend.  Players from his first years at Chipola return to participate in the weekend of activities.  Jeff has made an indelible mark in many of his players all the way up to his major leaguers.  

Jose Bautista has the highest of praise for Johnson, “Coach Johnson has and still has a great impact in my life. It began from the time I arrived in Marianna, Florida, at age 18 and continues today. His contributions to my development and growth as a player and as a person have been so great that I consider him the individual that has had the greatest influence in me (after my parents). He has such a contagious love and passion for the game that, as a player, you can’t help but to learn the game as much as he does. Having him as my coach, I learned how to play the game and respect it, but also how to play it the right way: the winning way. He also taught me about discipline and dedication and how to use them on and off the field so I can also become a better citizen and contributor to society. What impressed me the most while I played for him was his ‘uncanny’ ability to win baseball games. He knows how to run a baseball program period. From scouting and recruiting players to making sure his students go to study hall and keep their grades ‘up’, he is a true baseball coach. Through hard work and with perseverance he can turn a group of guys into a winning ballclub. He knows the game in-and-out and is a great observer. To this day, when I’m struggling at the plate, I call him and ask him to watch my ‘at-bats’ to see what needs to be fixed.  After I left Chipola and was in the major leagues, I finished my degree because of Coach’s influence.” 

Russell Martin came to Chipola from Canada.  He is now in the major leagues as a catcher. He gives Johnson credit for where he is today, “Coach Johnson puts the well-being of his players before his own well-being. Coach Johnson also puts the extra-time in, both on and off the field with his players to see his kids become successful. I’ve had many coaches in my professional career so far, and Coach Johnson is the one I respect the most both professionally and personally, because of his perseverance through both easy and difficult situations and the perseverance translated to me and also many of the players that played with me at Chipola. Coach Johnson helped those guys and myself become successful at whatever our profession is. I grew up here at Chipola more than any other time in my life. I came to Chipola a boy and now consider myself a man ready to take on any adverse situation.  Not only did I improve my skills as a baseball player, I became a player with much confidence and more character as my time went on here at Chipola.  Hard work here at Chipola translated into my pro career, by making the long season feel easier to take on because of Coach Johnson’s everlasting drive to get the most out of us as players and people.” 

The list of accolades from former players continues with Patrick Corbin, “Coach Johnson has been one of the biggest influences in my baseball career, both on and off the field. He has great expectations and does a great job of getting the best out of his team. Whether it’s on the field or in the classroom, he will put you in the best situation for you to succeed. The first time I talked with Coach J on the phone I knew I wanted to play for him and knew Chipola would be the best place for me to succeed as a player and student. He told me nothing would be given to me and what he demanded from his players. Knowing this and seeing the great players he had coached before me made signing with Chipola a no-brainer! Being a pitcher, he taught me both mentally and mechanically the fundamentals that have allowed me to develop and be successful in professional baseball. Without a question, going to Chipola was the best decision of my life, and I would not be where I am today without Coach J!”

Former Chipola catcher Clayte Rooks played one year under Johnson at Chipola, “It was great, Coach J was awesome and I loved every minute of it. He had a way of getting the most out of you when you thought you were maxed out.”

Pitcher Michael Mader met Johnson when he moved to Marianna in 2001 and immediately adopted Chipola Field as his second home. He snagged fly balls, chased foul balls and was given the nickname the “Dugout Rat” by Chipola players in the dugout. Mader joined the Chipola team and played under Johnson for two years before being drafted by the Marlins and gives Johnson a ton of credit, “He doesn’t play, he tells you what he expects of you and instills the desire for you to go the extra mile every day.  When I graduated from Marianna, I went to Coach J and asked what I needed to do for the summer. He said pretty quickly, “Hit the weightroom, you need to add 25 pounds by start of the season.” I thought at the time that was impossible but he knew exactly what he was talking about. August 21, I weighed in the first day of camp at 200 pounds, 25 pounds above my graduation weight. He never asked anything of you that he didn’t know you couldn’t do. He’s one of the first people I see when I come home in the off season.”

Coach Johnson has the respect of all who play, coach, or watch the game.  He’s a no frills guy who demands the best from his players both on and off the field.  His success comes from the drive he has to succeed, “Players have to have the responsibility to do what’s expected of them in every aspect of life.   Life isn’t a pick and choose marathon.  You take the good with the bad and the bad with the good.  Not everyone is a scholar or a straight A student but everyone can apply themselves and make the grades to play baseball, if they have a desire to play bad enough.  I’ve been very fortunate to have coached some of the finest athletes in the country and it’s very rewarding to seem them succeed beyond Chipola, whether it’s on the baseball field, at a university, or in the working world.”

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