Dr. Mike Marshall's Pitching Coach Services

April 27, 1987 St. Petersburg Times

Off and Running: Saint Leo's Johnson has definitely mastered the art of base stealing
St. Petersburg Times
by Dennis Martin
April 27, 1987

SAINT LEO, FL:  Blink your eyes three times and you will miss Cisco Johnson stealing second base.  Do it again and the Saint Leo senior is brushing himself off at third.

With 3.2 second base-stealing speed, Johnson has been a thorn in the side of opposing catchers all season long.  And the senior is just two stolen bases shy of breaking the NCAA Division II record for single season stolen bases, with a present total of 93.  But the soft-spoken Pasco High graduate has not let the pressure affect his play.

"I started thinking about it four games ago, but then I said to myself that worrying about it will only hurt my chances," Johnson said.  "Now I just relax and work hard at the plate to make good contact."

Working hard has been one key to Johnson's season, according to head coach Mike Marshall.  Johnson is hitting around .395, almost 60 points higher than last season, and Marshall praises him for his desire to excel.

"Cisco decided in the off-season that he could hit the ball a lot better and he worked diligently to correct his swing," Marshall explained.  "He has been hitting rockets all season and his .395 average is a hammer .395 with very few bunts as a lead-off man."

Johnson explained that the main change in his batting has been the stance.  He switched to a stand-up position this season.  He had used a crouch position last year.  Although his home run total is down by two (four total), Johnson and Marshall agree it has produced a more level swing.

While his batting average has increased, stealing bases is nothing new to Johnson, who totaled 57 stolen bases in 58 attempts his last two years in high school.  He notched 48 stolen bases for Saint Leo last season, while sporting a higher on-base percentage than this year.

So why the significant increase?

"I have to give most of the credit to Coach Marshall, because he taught me many things about base stealing this year," Johnson said.  "I think the single most important thing he taught me was the short, hard slide at the finish.  It cuts down on the length of the slide and sometimes gives the illusion of me being safe even when I'm out."

Johnson has only been caught stealing six times this year, a low total considering he has no fear of stealing third or even home.

But even with Johnson's credit to his coaching, Marshall stands firm in his belief that Johnson's base-stealing talent is mostly the player's doing.

"I take credit for nothing because you can teach, talk and pull your hair out, but if the player doesn't want to learn, you are just wasting your time," Marshall said.  "We taught him how to steal third this year and I have to compare his style with the likes of Davey Lopes."

Johnson also dishes out credit for his success on the bases to fellow teammates Ricky Rex and Bobby White.  He said that the two have given themselves up at the plate when batting behind him by taking pitches, giving Johnson the opportunity to steal.

Three times this season the speedster has stolen six bases in one game.  He also sports a 5-for-7 outing against Rollins in a game where he stole home.

Following his college career, which he hopes to complete this fall with a degree in Sports Management, Johnson hopes to play baseball professionally.

He has also sent his statistics to the proper channels in hopes of playing on the Pan American team this year.


P.S.: Cisco Johnson still holds the NCAA Division II record for stolen bases in a season with 96 (in 49 games) in 1987:
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