Washington Tornado Victim Takes Field With CornBelters

Published 05/08 2014 07:07PM

Updated 05/08 2014 07:38PM

NORMAL - It's been a long time since Rodney Johnson took the field as a player.

"Competitively? Probably 21 years ago,” said Johnson.

In November, playing a game was the furthest thing from his mind, Johnson lost his home when a tornado ripped through Washington.

"It was probably the scariest day I've ever lived,” he recalled.

But as the family surveyed the damage, giving up wasn't an option.

"It may have taken our house down, but it didn't break our spirits,” said Johnson.

Faced with the giant rebuild, Johnson took a night out to attend the CornBelters Hot Stove Banquet There, Johnson won the chance to be a player for a day.

"My first goal was don't get hurt,” he said, laughing.

And after 21 years, Johnson finally made his professional debut, fulfilling a childhood dream for his family and more.

"I coach little guys, and every day on the baseball field is a day you can make a kid happy,” said Johnson.

After facing the disaster, standing in the batter's box against a pro didn't seem too bad.

“I assumed I was just going to get fastballs. They see the old guy up there and they're just going to throw fastballs, and I'm thinking okay, three pitches, three chances to hit it,” said Johnson.

And though his at-bat ended in a ground out to second, this little league coach now can share why this became his field of dreams, renewed.

Johnson has been living in a rental house in Washington as his home gets rebuilt. He's hoping to move back in by August or September.

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