Johnson's made relationship work on, off field

Father Wes, standing right, watches son Walker, sitting right, sign with East Central CC.
Staff Writer

Long before Wes Johnson was a successful head coach at East Webster High School, he was hurling a baseball for Mississippi State.

Johnson was a part of one of the best programs in college baseball and learned plenty during his time under coach Ron Polk in Starkville. He took everything he learned during those years in the late 1980’s and put it into his own coaching when he became a coach of the Wolverines.

None of that could have prepared him on how to coach his son, however, and that was something he had to learn on the fly. Wes’ son, Walker, came up through his program and was given no special treatment. He wanted his son to earn his opportunities just like his teammates and Walker did just that.

It hasn’t been an easy road, Wes said. The two have had to come to grips with the fact that Wes is coach on the field, and dad at home.

“It’s hard to coach your own son,” Wes said. “You want what’s best for him and it’s hard to differentiate between the two. It was definitely enjoyable, but it’s hard at the same time.”

Wes wasn’t quite sure how good his son would be, but he admits his growth in the game has surprised even him. Walker has shot up to 6-4 and is steadily growing into his impressive frame and his pitching prowess and gotten better and better over the last three seasons.

As a sophomore, Walker threw just 15 innings. His junior year saw him make a huge jump into the rotation with 36 frames, 53 strikeouts and just six earned runs. He threw 41.2 innings this year with 79 strikeouts and made a decision to continue his career at East Central Community College.

Walker attributes his progression as a pitcher to his pitching coach, who also happens to eat dinner with at the family table every night. He doesn’t believe there could have been a much better teacher along the way.

“I think the thing he’s taught me most is to throw strikes and how to have mental toughness,” Walker said of his father. “If you want to have success as a pitcher, those are the most important things and he preached that to me early.”

Those teachings won’t stop anytime soon as Wes is still going to be looking out for Walker’s best interest. The tough part for the veteran coach is going to be sitting behind a fence from now on instead of in the dugout while his son throws.

It’s something that he’s going to have to get used to, but he isn’t sure how.

“I’m wondering about that," coach Johnson said. "I don’t know. I’m not sure what it’s going to be like, but it’s going to be different. I don’t have the luxury to call him over and give him some of my thoughts any more. I’m going to have to keep quiet this time.”

For Walker, those days in the maroon and white uniform with his father by his side will be missed. As a young boy growing up around the East Webster program, he can’t help but consider himself blessed to play for Johnson.

More importantly, he was happy to play for his dad.

“It was nice,” Walker said of being coached by his father. “Sometimes it’s hard to see him as a coach and a dad on the field. I’ve had multiple people come up to me and tell me that he was the best coach in the state. To hear that from people is really cool.”