Oklahoma has hired Skip Johnson, a longtime assistant at The University of Texas and head coach at Navarro College, to take over the duties of pitching coach on the staff of baseball coach Pete Hughes.
“I am elated to announce the hiring of Skip Johnson. With this addition to our program, we have one of the nation’s most respected recruiters and top pitching minds in our game,” said Hughes. “More importantly, we are bringing aboard a man of integrity; a true family man.”
“I am grateful for the opportunity Joe Castiglione and Pete Hughes have given me to work alongside them and Mike Anderson to get OU baseball back on the road to Omaha,” said Johnson. “I’ve seen firsthand how Pete runs a first-class program. I look forward to building strong relationships and developing elite student-athletes at the University of Oklahoma.”
Johnson was hired as the pitching coach at Texas for the 2007 season under Augie Garrido, who stepped down from his position as the winningest coach in college baseball last month to take on new duties in the UT athletics department. In 10 seasons, Johnson helped the Longhorns to seven NCAA Regional appearances, four Super Regionals and three College World Series appearances.
“I think it’s going to be something that this pitching staff is going to be excited about,” said Bobby Witt, former OU and Major League pitcher. “I’ve known Skip for a long time since he was down at Navarro. His track record speaks for itself with what he has done at the University of Texas. The pitchers that he has produced and how they’ve done as a group over the years tells you what he’s able to do and how he’s able to go out and work with talented players.”
Over the last 10 seasons, 32 Texas pitchers have been selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, including 14 in the first 10 rounds and three first round picks. Johnson has also overseen the development of six Longhorn pitchers that have made it to the big leagues. The Texas pitching staff produced a team earned run average below 3.00 on five occasions and struck out better than 7.5 per-nine-innings in five of the last eight seasons. As Texas reached its second CWS with Johnson on staff in 2011, his pitchers led the Big 12 in ERA (2.35), batting average against (.198) and K/9 (8.28).
“Skip is a very likeable and loyal person,” said Garrido. “He is one of the best teaching coaches when it comes to pitching and pitching mechanics. He is a tireless worker that is always there for his players. I think his Texas connections and reputation for developing pitchers makes it a great move for Oklahoma.”
Prior to his arrival in Austin, Johnson was the head coach at Navarro College of the NJCAA Texas Eastern Athletic Conference. From 1994-2006, he guided the Bulldogs to 13 NJCAA Regionals, nine TEAC championships and four regional titles, while compiling 450 wins.
“Skip is one of the best guys with pitching that I’ve ever worked with,” said Homer Bailey, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. “Whenever I’m in Austin during the offseason, I’ll work with him. Once I get off the mound before I report for spring training, one of the things that is a given is that I’ll be throwing bullpens with Skip. He is really great mechanically with pitching. Another thing that always stands out is his passion for pitching. He’s a great guy to work with. When you’re working with Skip it’s like you’re doing it together even when you’re the one doing all the throwing.”
Johnson has also mentored a number of players outside of those he coached at Navarro and UT. Johnson regularly works with two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Homer Bailey of the Cincinnati Reds. He’s also worked with Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, among others.
“I am excited for our young, talented pitching staff and the opportunity they will have to be developed by one of college baseball’s most accomplished and knowledgeable teachers,” continued Hughes. “We welcome coach Johnson, his wife Cathy and sons Tyler and Garrett to the Sooner baseball family.”
A standout baseball player at Denton High School, Johnson began his collegiate playing career at Ranger (Texas) College. After a two-year career at Ranger, Johnson moved on to play baseball at the University of North Texas in 1988, where he played one year for the Mean Green before the school dropped its baseball program. He completed his collegiate playing career at UT-Pan American, lettering for the Broncs in 1989 and receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1990. Johnson earned a master’s degree in education from UT-Tyler in 1993.
A native of Denton, Texas, Johnson and his wife, Cathy, have two sons, Tyler and Garrett.
“Skip and I go all the way back to the days when I played at Navarro and he was the head coach,” said Chris Davis, first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles. “We have a really good relationship and hang out quite a bit. Every offseason, we hunt together. We’ve become good friends over the years. As far as coaching goes, there are not too many guys I hold in as high a regard as Skip. As far as his overall knowledge of the game, the way that he is able to relate to players and the way he teaches guys. He’s just a baseball guy. He understands the game and what it takes to make a player tick and how to teach.
“The biggest reason guys want to play for Skip is the fact that he’s a good man. You know that he’s going to go to bat for you and work hard for you. Skip really taught me how to play the game the right way and how to carry myself as a man. He really cares about the players and is going to take the time to do the little things.”