Illini Sign Canadian Catcher
July 23, 2007
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Illinois head baseball coach Dan Hartleb announced Monday the signing of catcher Aaron Johnson (Sussex Corner, New Brunswick) to a National Letter of Intent. Johnson, who will enroll as a sophomore in August, will bolster the Illini catching corps and look to build on the growing tradition of Canadian backstops at Illinois. He follows Chris Robinson and Lars Davis as recent imports behind the plate, with both former Illini being drafted in the third round of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in 2005 and 2007, respectively.
"He's along the lines of our former Canadian catchers," said Illinois assistant coach Eric Snider, who was the lead recruiter on Johnson. "He can catch and throw, and he handles the bat very well."
Johnson has followed a path similar to that of former Illini catcher Lars Davis, a recent third-round draft pick by the Colorado Rockies. Following high school, Johnson was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 46th round of the 2006 MLB Draft but instead went to Lethbridge College. He starred at Lethbridge's Prairie Baseball Academy for two seasons, most recently hitting .333 (24-of-72) with 30 RBI, seven doubles, a homer, a .500 on-base percentage and 9-of-12 stolen bases while starting 23 of the 24 games he played.
He is currently playing for the Lethbridge Bulls of the Western Major Baseball League, a summer wood-bat league similar to summer leagues in the U.S., and is hitting .341 in 20 games with 18 RBI, 15 runs, eight doubles, a triple and two homers for a .529 slugging percentage. He also has thrown out 6-of-17 (35 percent) runners attempting stolen bases.
"Offensively, he's another kid who's used a wood bat his whole life, so it'll be his first time with aluminum," Snider said. "He's an RBI guy who has a little juice in his bat, so he has some tools."