It’s hard to follow sports in Petaluma without running into the name Dalton Johnson. Living and coaching baseball on the east side of Petaluma I really didn’t know Dalton. It wasn’t until my son attended Petaluma High School and played on the varsity baseball team that I started hearing about him.
What intrigued me about Dalton is that while he has an impressive tenure in sports as an athlete he also has a passion to write about it. Dalton was a sports intern for the Argus Courier. Today he is an outfielder for a NCAA Division II Armstrong Atlantic University Pirates in Savannah, Georgia where he will graduate in spring with a B.A. in English with a concentration in journalism. Not only does he play on the field, he also writes a sports column for the AASU’s school newspaper, The Inkwell. He also is author of a blog called “Life’s A Ball: Life, sports and everything in between.”
Dalton has an impressive track record in local sports. He earned All-League and All-Empire honors in both baseball and football for the Petaluma High School Trojans. In Max-Preps his stats in his senior year are well over the national average. In junior college at SRJC he earned All-Big 8 honors in baseball with an impressive record for a sophomore. Even this week Dalton celebrated a big win for the AASU Pirates after hitting grand slam home run to send them past #24 nationally ranked Braves. Not only was this the Pirates’ Senior Day, it was the first time that Dalton’s parents were able to see him play at Armstrong. A day they won’t soon forget.
I set out to learn more about Dalton, because I felt that others would like to know more about him. Dalton agreed to an interview so I am happy to share the following with you.
Wayne: What first inspired you to create Life’s A Ball?
Dalton: I started Life’s A Ball as a lowly blog for me to write my sports opinions in January of 2012. Once I decided to get more serious about my writing and create a more professional looking blog, it took off in the last two years.
Wayne: What plans do you have for Life’s A Ball blog/website?
Dalton: Right now I have used Life’s A Ball as a place for my published work and just blog posts about sports and life as well, but I hope to expand to do more feature stories on my own, and add more of a multimedia and photography element soon too.
Wayne: Where do you see yourself in five years from now? Do you have any big plans?
Dalton: I wish I knew completely, but I am constantly writing down ideas for my writing and I hope to be making a name for myself in both the sports journalism world and the creative writing world. I like having plans, but also just keep working and know that your hard work will put you in the right path, and not to worry too much about the future.
Wayne: We see you chose a cover photo on your page that is of the Sandlot gang. Do you have Sandlot memories of your own to share?
Dalton: I grew up loving the Sandlot and wishing I was part of the gang, and even now I still do. To me, that’s what baseball is all about. They play to win the game, but the friendships and the fun are something you will never forget. This always takes me back to playing catch with my dad and having him throw me batting practice until his arm fell off as a little kid.
Wayne: What positions do you like playing, and what are the ones you performed the best at?
Dalton: Growing up I always played shortstop and loved it, but as I grew older I became a center fielder. In college, I’ve played center and right field and I’ll always love center field the most, because I grew up idolizing Ken Griffey Jr.
Wayne: What was that one play that you will remember for the rest of your life when you were playing ball in Petaluma?
Dalton: There’s plenty of hits and diving plays from little league to high school that I will always remember, but my biggest memory was actually the Egg Bowl my senior year, when we beat Casa Grande 40-14 [Click here to see Dalton’s highlights of this game]. We were both undefeated and I had two interceptions and one receiving touchdown, while my best friend Sean Sullivan rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns. That game is high school football to me.
Wayne: Now that you have moved around, do you miss your hometown?
Dalton: I never expected to be in Savannah, Ga., but I think I’m lucky that I’ve been able to see another side of the country in college. Being away from home has really taught me how lucky I am to live in a town like Petaluma though, and just the hometown feel is like nowhere else.
Wayne: Do you have any coaches in your youth that inspired you to get better at the game?
Dalton: I was lucky enough to have some great baseball coaches at a really young age like Mike Krist, Paul Sequeira, and Marc Nadale, but my biggest inspiration as a player will always be my father Ken Johnson, who coached me in little league and high school. He was always willing to do the extra work with me and not everyone is lucky enough to have a dad that was a great player and coach.
Wayne: As an adult what aspects of baseball looking back what life skills do you practice today that you attribute to the game of baseball?
Dalton: Baseball has been great to me. The game gave me friendships for a lifetime and paid for my education, but I’ve also had lows with the highs. It’s truly the game of life and the biggest teacher of adversity. I’ve had trouble dealing with the adversity before, but the game will force you to deal with adversity and be a stronger person to succeed, and to me that’s one of the greatest life lessons you can get.
Wayne: What got you into journalism and writing?
Dalton: My mother is huge reader, and her mother was a writer, along with some of my aunts and uncles that wrote songs and poetry. Growing up I always wrote sports notes down and made up lineups for the Giants and Yankees, and I just loved to read. I didn’t get serious about journalism until my sophomore year at Santa Rosa Junior College and I’ve loved it more ever since.
Wayne: Was there a teacher that you credit as giving you the tools and motivation you need to write? Tell us what that was?
Dalton: In fourth grade at Penngrove Elementary School, my teacher was Ms. (Coleen) Maloney and I’ll never forget her. She didn’t get me into journalism by any means, but she was the most encouraging teacher I’ve had and really pushed reading. We also went on more field trips than any other class I was ever in and she just always encouraged us to go out and learn.
Wayne: Tell us about your short story LB Lange Comes Home that was recently release for Kindle on Amazon?
Dalton: LB Lange Comes Home is a short story I wrote about a man who was once considered the best baseball player in San Francisco since Joe DiMaggio as a senior in high school. A family tragedy leads him down some bad paths and he comes back to San Francisco for the first time in 22 years to see a new star at his old high school going down the same road, and feels it’s his responsibility to help.
Wayne: Do you have any future stories you that you are working on and intend to publish in the future?
Dalton: I am always writing down ideas for the future and hope to have many different works published. Right now, I am working on a nonfiction piece that is a big project on someone that has been one of my biggest inspirations.
Wayne: Thank Dalton and we wish you the very best in your last year at Armstrong and your future in journalism.
Dalton: Thank you for the interview.
If you wish to order Dalton’s short story it is available on kindle through amazon.com for only $3 dollars. Of course if you liked this interview, please share it with others.
By Wayne Dunbar, Positively Petaluma
Editor & Contributor to Petaluma Baseball Magazine
For more information about Positively Petaluma, please click on our About Page. Thanks also for following us on Twitter and Facebook.
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