After his five-homer performance in four Gonzaga wins last week over University of San Francisco and Washington State, Troy Johnston was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Week — again. The GU outfielder earned the title two weeks ago after clinching a three-game series against University of Portland, where he tallied at least two hits in each game and had four doubles.
It’s the doubles that are becoming Johnston’s trademark on the field. The junior is leading the NCAA in doubles with 22 this season, and 13 of those came in the month of April. The same month he also raised his batting average 57 points, now hitting an average of .426 over the plate.
But there’s no secret ritual to Johnston’s success, he said. He just puts his shoes on and shows up every day. And in that is the secret — having a ritual. It’s the same ritual he’s focused on to work toward winning a championship with his team.
It’s the day-to-day work for Johnston, constantly working to improve his craft. Through eating habits, getting enough sleep, going to weights and practice. Trying to get better any way he possibly can.
“Those are what keep you up in the championship,” Johnston said. “You gotta kind of get into a momentum, get into a groove off the field to be able to perform on the field.”
And Johnston has a dedicated audience watching him perform.
Before every game, Johnston looks up into the stands for his grandparents, and without fail there they are, all bundled up behind the plate.
Mary-Kay Bryan, Johnston’s grandmother makes it to every game her grandson has at GU, making sure not to schedule anything if she knows he’ll have a game that day.
“That’s one of the reasons I came to Gonzaga,” Johnston said. “Because they were so close.”
And they take full advantage of sharing the same neighborhood, having dinner together almost every week.
Johnston grew up on the west side, in Puyallup, Washington, but would spend his summers with Bryan in her home in the Logan Neighborhood playing catch.
“We knew whenever Troy was around, we were playing baseball,” Bryan said. “We’d throw the ball and he’d hit it. And when he was 2 years old you could go, and … he would play for four hours ... He was way into baseball since he was little.”
So into baseball that his first word was “ball,” Johnston said.
And he tried nearly every sport on the list, but at the end of the day baseball was the sport he was the best at and the sport he liked the most.
“There’s no better feeling than squaring up a baseball and hitting it well,” Johnston said. “I always enjoyed that. It was always the sport I was best at. And you don’t have to run very much, that’s a good thing,” he laughed.
Through the team, he has met his closest friends Keaton Knueppel and Mac Lardner, who double as his housemates. From the looks of it however, it would be hard to tell that they really do care about one another.
During batting practice, Johnston threw balls at the other two jokingly, and was met by Knueppel and Lardner rallying half the team to throw 25 balls back at him.
But Knueppel and Lardner don’t view their friend Johnston like a brother, but as a dad.
“He always tells us to take out the trash and do the dishes,” Lardner said. “It’s kind of like living with your parents in a way.”
Even his jokes are “dad jokes,” Kneuppel said. And Johnston admits.
Despite all the name-calling, Kneuppel acknowledges that Johnston is one of their best friends and has been since freshman year.
“He’s a really good hitter,” Lardner said. “He’s the anchor in our lineup, he’s definitely the guy people are afraid to see.”