By Vern Hee
At six-feet tall with a bearded face, Johnny Arriola is not quite Brian Wilson, pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, but probably would not mind being compared to him. He needs a bit more beard to get the look, though.
Johnny Arriola is competing with six other pitchers for a role as either a starter or relief pitcher for the Trojans baseball team. He has not played for the Trojans since he was a freshman. He comes back after a year-long absence.
He returned to the mound on Tuesday in front of a home crowd for his second appearance this year as a pitcher.
Arriola has pitched four innings so far this year. In his first appearance against Mingus, Ariz., he walked eight batters and struck out four batters in just two innings. He definitely struggled with control in his first outing.
In his second game, he struck out four batters, had no hits, no walks and cut his ERA in half from 14 to 7.0. He was back.
Coach Brian Hayes says despite some early struggles, Arriola is finding his groove.
“Johnny struggled with his command at the Route 66 tournament, so this was a nice bounce back performance. A few more solid outings like this and he will push for a spot in the rotation. Right now, he is competing with six other pitchers for both starting spots and relief position. It would be a big plus for us for him to get on the mound. As a lefty, he has the natural movement on his pitches, plus he can hold runners closer to the bag because he’s a southpaw,” said Hayes.
Arriola has a big love for the game of baseball.
He started playing the game when he was 6 years old. He started off with tee-ball, and has never had a break until high school. After his freshman year, he left baseball to let his arm heal from a torn rotator cuff. He sustained this injury from pushing his arm too much during baseball.
“The summer before I threw out my shoulder, I took awhile off. I took the time off and now it feels healed. It just needed time to rest,” he said.
Arriola puts time and effort into the sport he loved. He used this same motivation and passion to accomplish another goal, graduation from high school.
What makes Arriola unusual is he is graduating a year early from high school, and he is not graduating from PVHS, but from Pathways.
Arriola should be a junior this year at the high school, but has one more credit to complete high school, which makes him a senior. He said he should finish this year easily.
According to the Nye County School District, “Pathways is a non-traditional school where students are engaged in learning using an assisted/independent learning approach. Grade levels are 6 through 12.”
The lefty’s baseball and his school are the two important aspects of his life. He just needed the right school, which fit his needs.
He chose to attend Pathways three years ago. Arriola feels this was a perfect fit for him.
“I work for my parents in the mornings selling Dish Network, so if I went to the regular high school it would not have worked out,” said Arriola. “It works so much better for me going to Pathways.”
From the start, Arriola was serious about his education and had the full support of his parents in making the decision to attend the alternative learning school.
According to Bonnie Chenevert, a Pathways instructor, success at Pathways often has its roots in the family home.
“His mother was in contact with us a lot. She was concerned with what he was doing and she wanted to know where he was at. That was a huge motivating factor, and that is a big plus for us when you have the parents involved. He is a great kid and we are really proud of him,” said Chenevert.
Attending Pathways, meant Arriola had to be disciplined and self-motivated. These are two things he was not, when he started the program.
“I have not always been a self-motivated person. For awhile I was a big procrastinator. Everything I did, I would tell myself that I would do it tomorrow until it just piled up. I finally realized I could not do it all in one day,” explained Arriola.
He said he had to change the way he did things once he got started with Pathways.
“I remember when I started Pathways I told myself I am just going to get it done. I had a couple weeks where I had a hard time doing the work. A lot of it is just doing it, and it is a lot more than the regular high school,” he said.
Chenevert said Arriola has been a great student.
“He is extremely motivated,” she said.
Chenevert said Arriola had a purpose and goals set. She said an average student to succeed and graduate from Pathways must complete five to six classes a year. Arriola exceeded the expectations of the school.
“Johnny has been doing six to seven classes a year. He also helps us around the school. He has been an office assistant as well. He has really applied himself. He has really worked hard to get things done quicker,” she said.
Arriola said not doing the work was never an option. His goal from the start was to get an education so he could go to college and maybe play baseball.
He sees an education as something to be valued. If everything goes as planned, he would finish school with a 3.4 GPA and either attend college or enlist in the army to help pay for college.
“I do not see the point in not doing the school work. You are not cheating the teachers out of anything. You are not cheating the staff. You’re cheating yourself out of an education. Why would you do that to yourself? Especially with the economy the way it is, an education is the best thing you can get for yourself,” he said.
As for students from Pathways getting a bad reputation and being a school of losers, Arriola believes students get what they put into it.
“There are some students that consider themselves losers. A lot of the students there have so much potential and if they really just put their mind to it they would be able to accomplish so much more,” concluded Arriola.