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Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018
Curtis Johnson signs with the Ottawa Champions
by Randy Pascal

It hasn't taken local pitcher Curtis Johnson much time at all to experience the roller coaster that is life as a professional baseball player.

Just months after graduating from West Virginia State University, Johnson was offered an invitation to the training camp of the Ottawa Champions, a team competing in the Can-Am League (independent).

The graduate of Lockerby Composite finished with a record of 2-1 in his final year with the NCAA Yellow Jackets, boasting an ERA of 0.36, with 10 saves and 34 strikeouts in 25 innings.

From there, he continued to impress, earning a contract and a spot on the opening day roster in the nation's capital. "He throws strikes, gets ahead in the count, and has a good downward plane," noted Champions manager Hal Lanier on the team website.

Keep in mind, for a moment, that Lanier can lay claim to nearly 500 games of Major League Baseball managerial experience with the Houston Astros (1986-1988), and a World Series ring as the third base coach with the 1982 St Louis Cardinals.

"It's a dream come true," stated Johnson. "I've been working hard my whole life, sacrificed a lot, and I'm proof that hard work pays off." However, with nerves almost certainly in play, Johnson was dealt a dose of harsh reality in his professional debut.

Facing the Trois-Rivières Aigles last week, Johnson retired but one batter, surrendering four hits, three runs (two of which were earned) and striking out one as Ottawa held on for a 10-6 win.

Johnson will try and turn things around this week, as the Champions host the New Jersey Jackals for a three game set before heading out on the road, battling the Sussex Miners next weekend.

Overall, the team is off to a solid start at 3-1, trailing only the Rockland Boulders (5-0) in the six team circuit. Rounding out the Can-Am League are the Québec Capitales, with exhibition games planned this summer against the national teams from both Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

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