2022 Pirates first-round draft pick Termarr Johnson saw his first full professional season begin in fits and starts as a hamstring injury during spring training sidelined him for much of April.
Fellow 2022 draftee Jack Brannigan, who the Pirates selected 79 picks after Johnson at No. 83, commended his teammate for how he hit the ground running as a vocal presence in the Pirates’ organization despite the early adversity.
Among teammates, Brannigan is one of the best-suited to evaluate Johnson. Playing shortstop and second base, respectively, the two form the chief double play combo for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Pittsburgh’s High-A affiliate.
“It’s been a lot of fun up the middle with him. He’s a great player, he’s very vocal which is great on the field. It’s been awesome playing with him,” Brannigan said. “He’s definitely a leader, for him to be 19 years old and be okay in being loud like that. It’s not something you really see.”
The Pirates drafted Johnson out of high school as the fourth overall pick. Brannigan said that Johnson doesn’t shy away from the lofty expectations his draft pedigree affords. Johnson was the youngest player the Pirates invited to spring training this year: he easily could’ve acted like a fly on the wall.
“It definitely speaks to his maturity and who he is as a player, and I think it’s going to help him a lot along the way, because I think a lot of guys could’ve come in and heard all the talk, whatever, and kinda just shied away and tried to do their own thing,” Brannigan said. “But he’s been great, kinda been that vocal guy on the field and in the clubhouse and just, he’s done a really good job.”
To hear Termarr Johnson say it, he’s always prized leadership on the diamond.
“When I first started playing baseball, I feel like I always had to be vocal, being vocal and being communicative with my teammates. I feel like that’s really important in winning a baseball game. As long as everybody’s on the same page, we’re just gonna be better,” Johnson said. “I just try to take it upon myself to make sure that everybody’s on the same chord, make sure everybody’s ready to play this game and win the game.”
Through his early season injury, Termarr Johnson said he kept his head held high. He learned to adopt that mentality not just on the diamond, but also in life.
“You can say a lot of bad things to yourself, [but] I’m just trying to give myself good thoughts each at-bat. Even out there on the field, just give myself good thoughts, help my pitcher, make good plays for my pitcher,” Johnson said. “That’s something I prepared myself even before getting drafted and before being in this league, in baseball and in life.”
Yogi Berra said that baseball is 90 percent mental. Johnson reiterated that maxim, discussing how his family helped him succeed.
“My parents [impressed] that on me. I had three older brothers, they definitely helped me a lot with having a strong mindset. Just trying to stay with what I was taught as a kid has really helped me a lot,” Johnson said. “Growing up as the young[est] one, I definitely had to learn a lot. I definitely had to be mentally tough.”
Johnson said his parents provided uplifting support, while his older brothers gave him a trial by fire, picking on him as only brothers know how.
“You know how brothers are, they pick on you sometimes,” Johnson said. “When they come at you, they’ll come at you pretty hard. Just making sure that you stay mentally strong, that you have that mental toughness to go through each day.”
Draft Day Dreams
Just as Johnson took to leadership with natural aplomb, he said he relished the opportunity of a high draft slot. Even with the added pressure that comes with being one of the top players in the draft, Johnson maintains his positive outlook.
“That’s something that I always looked forward to throughout my career, before getting drafted. I always wanted to be highly touted for what I did, for playing the game of baseball,” Johnson said. “Getting the opportunity was more of a blessing than extra pressure. Just trying to stay with that, treat it as a blessing instead of pressure.”
Termarr Johnson said he ignores the outside noise when he takes the field. They’re all baseball players, and things like draft slot don’t matter in a game.
“It doesn’t really matter about how high you were up in the ranks, what type of money you got in the draft, how high you got drafted. It’s just going out there and helping the team win,” Johnson said. “If I stay like that, everything will come to me. Even playing now, it’s not really too much pressure. I’m just trying to make sure I help my team win each day.”