Johnson trades Vandy dugout for Cubs position

Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 10:33pm

Derek Johnson never had the itch to become a college head coach.

He was perfectly happy to stay at Vanderbilt and retire as the Commodores’ pitching coach.

“I felt like being on the field and really being able to develop players was my calling,” he said.

Thus, Johnson couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Not when the Chicago Cubs called and asked him to be their minor league pitching coordinator. After 11 years, Johnson is leaving Vanderbilt to work for the franchise he grew up rooting for.

“I’ve been extremely happy here for the last 11 years and quite honestly didn’t have a whole lot of thoughts or aspirations of moving,” the 41-year-old said. “Then an opportunity comes your way that you feel like you kind of can’t pass up, and then you’re leaving. It was really tough. At the same time, it’s really exciting, and I’m looking forward to all the new challenges.”

Johnson, a native of Normal, Ill., will stay in Nashville and travel to the Cubs’ minor league teams, which are as close as Knoxville (Double-A). Head coach Tim Corbin said he hopes to hire a replacement in the next three weeks.

Johnson’s successor will have big shoes to fill.

Under his tutelage, six players were drafted in the first round. His most notable protégé, Tampa Bay Rays right-hander David Price, is a candidate for the Cy Young Award.

In 2011, Johnson mentored a pitching staff that set a school record with a 2.44 ERA. Eight pitchers were part of a Southeastern Conference-record 12 players drafted that June.

“I don’t look at it like it was a one-man show,” Johnson said. “I don’t look at it like it was any one magical thing. I think it was a combination of a lot of things that worked really well. ... The thing that I will miss is the everyday interaction with our players, our coaches. I’m going to miss that.”

2 Comments on this post:

By: 4gold on 11/8/12 at 8:28

Vandy just signed a boat load of pitchers. I hope this doesnt disrupt the recruiting roll Vandy is on. Trading an NCAA run for double A cubs in Knoxville? Ugggh. Wish Jonson would reconsider.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville a great place to live!

By: wiseguy1 on 11/8/12 at 9:08

Maybe the Cubs are getting serious about being competative. Nashville is pretty good spot for him. Close to SEC and ACC talent. AAA in Iowa, AA in Knoxville and As in Daytona & Peoria. Lots of connections through Nas Vegas airport and most of the Cubs mionor league affiliations are within a days drive.

I'm sure Corbin will stay close with Johnson.

As I said before, I'm sure there is a long list of candidates to fill Johnson's vacancy. Upper tier team in premium league ... I'm betting there no drop off with candidate filling position.