NORMAN — Casey Johnson played baseball for nearly two seasons in the most counter-productive way possible. He was a hitter, but just putting the bat on the ball caused awful pain to shoot through the left-handed slugger’s right hand.
“Every time I would swing, I had to move my bottom hand off the bat,” Johnson said. “We tried taping the bat up on the end to help with the vibration so it wouldn’t hurt as much. It didn’t work.”
It put the Oklahoma outfielder’s career in serious jeopardy at the absolute worst time. In his first two seasons, Johnson was one of the Sooners’ best players. In 2009, Johnson’s sophomore season, he belted seven homers and drove in 44 runs.
He did that while fighting the pain in his right hand. All he needed to do was have a solid summer in the Cape Cod League to ensure his draft status.
Things, though, didn’t work out. The pain was bad enough hitting with metal bats. Wood only made it worse. The pain continued into last season as Johnson saw his batting and power numbers sink along with his starting spot.
“I didn’t have surgery because I wanted to go play in the Cape Cod League. I should have gotten the surgery,” Johnson, now a senior, said. “If I would have done that, it would have solved the problem for last year.”
This season, however, that broken hamate bone is fully healed and a healthy Johnson has breathed some offensive life into the Sooner lineup. He’s driven in seven runs in the last three games and in 45 at-bats, he’s hitting .400. Also, with three home runs, his power has returned.
“Getting Casey back was like bringing in another great recruit,” Sooner third baseman Garrett Buechele said. “What has been really special about it has been that it has given us another quality bat we can stick in our lineup every day.”