Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tripper Johnson, 2001 Topps #354

What kind of name is "Tripper"? Were this guy's parents fans of "Three's Company"? Well, maybe they were, but Tripper is not his given name, thankfully. He was born Nelson Alexander Johnson III in Bellevue, WA. He was known as "triple", and then "Tripper". After hitting .453 as a high school senior, he was drafted with a first round sandwich pick (32nd overall) by the Orioles in 2000. He'd signed a letter of intent to play at the University of Washington, but the O's changed his mind with a $1.05 million signing bonus. Former scouting director Tony DeMacio likened him to former MVP Ken Caminiti. In 48 games at rookie level Bluefield that summer, he hit .306. Johnson climbed steadily through the ranks until 2004, when he was asked to repeat high-A Frederick in his fifth pro season. He responded with his best overall year (.269, 21 HR, 74 RBI). His reward was a promotion to AA Bowie in 2005, but his OPS dropped 100 points and his progress was stalled. He had a close call in midseason, but the O's scrapped plans to call him up when it was determined that Melvin Mora's hamstring injury would not require placement on the disabled list. Tripper struggled even more the following year and spent half the season back in Frederick. The Birds cut ties with him, and he spent his eighth and final minor league season in single-A Lynchburg in the Pirates organization. It was 2007, and Johnson was now 25. He saw the writing on the wall and walked away from baseball, choosing to finally enroll at UW.

What's surprising is that Tripper decided to play college football for the Huskies. He made the team as a backup safety in 2008, and started several games after the team was racked by injuries at his position. Washington went 0-12, but Johnson did record an interception in a 27-7 loss to UCLA on November 15. The following year he was injured in practice and did not play at all, and seems to have exhausted his eligibility. But for a short while, he had been able to return to the sport that he'd claimed was his greater passion.

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