Local baseball player hits home run when faced with adversity

Gavin Johns is best known for his longtime baseball career in Temecula and beyond, but he recently released an autobiography about his experiences with the sport and the game of life. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Temecula native Gavin Johns fell in love with baseball when he was very young. He said the passion and love he felt when playing the game was different than what he felt with any other sport. He has always wanted to play professional baseball, and this past year he got the opportunity to do just that, playing shortstop in the Atlantic League for the Kentucky Wild Health Genomes. Johns’ stats for his 2022 pro ball season were .320 AVG, 225 AB, 31 RBIs, 1HR, 18 2B and 18 SB.

While it may seem as if Johns’ success came easy, his journey included many setbacks and challenges that he overcame with hard work, perseverance and a strong faith. While honing his skills on the field, Johns has also kept busy attending college and writing a book about his experiences on and off the diamond. “Laugh in the Face of Adversity” was recently launched with a book signing at Murrieta’s Dynamic Fitness HPK where Johns trains, as do many other amateur and professional athletes.

“The title of the book comes from my uncle Mike, my dad’s brother, who always told me and my brother growing up to laugh in the face of adversity,” Johns, 25, said. “He always said that life is going to throw you challenges and adversities and you have two choices, either give up and back down or fight and push through. The choice of the word ‘laugh’ has a double meaning of finding humor and positivity in each situation, and also to smirk with a humble confidence that you will overcome any challenge life hands you.”

He said the word adversity to him means a difficulty or opposition that comes your way and everyone experiences it at some point in their life.

“Whenever you are trying to achieve something big, there will always be adversity,” Johns said. “When you bear down and fight through that difficult time, that is what molds your character and helps you become stronger and tougher on the other side. It actually helps push you to achieve your goal.”

After graduating from Chaparral High School, Johns attended Yavapai Community College in Arizona where he won a National Baseball Championship, moved on to play at UCLA, then ultimately found his way to Tennessee Tech where he earned his master’s degree in Strategic Leadership in 2021. He was named Man of the Year in his senior year. It is the highest honor bestowed on deserving scholar-athletes by Tennessee Tech Athletics. The criteria includes both athletic and academic accomplishments as well as additional areas such as community and campus involvement and public service activities.

“Giving back to the community is very important to me because I wouldn’t be the person and baseball player I am today without different communities that helped mold me. I am forever grateful and feel that it is my duty to give back and help the next generation,” Johns said. “My parents and relatives have always been very involved in the community and they raised me and my brother Hayden to be very involved in the community as well. I am thankful they instilled that in us because it is very important not to forget where you came from.”

The decision to write his autobiography began a few years ago when Johns began writing down some of his life experiences in a journal. A couple of his close friends recommended he write a book so during the past three years he has transitioned the journal notes into fleshed-out stories with more details culled from phone calls to friends, family and teammates to recount old memories and confirm all the facts were accurate.

“There have been many setbacks in my life and doubters, and I believe they only made me tougher and stronger,” Johns said. “I was able to turn any negativity into energy and motivation to prove the doubters wrong. In addition, I have been blessed with a great support system of family and friends that encourage me so that I can achieve anything I set my mind to and work hard for. And my faith in God has helped me so much. In those (adverse) moments I definitely lean on Him to remind me of who I am instead of what other people tell me they think I am.”

He views his survival from a huge traffic accident several years ago to be a “true miracle from God.” After flipping his truck multiple times across the freeway, he walked away with no severe injuries although glass had shattered all over him.

“I don’t know how I am still alive today but I am thankful God kept me alive and moments like those really help me appreciate each day even more,” he said.

Johns said the main message the book revolves around is that life is not always perfect but just because life is not perfect does not mean it has to keep you down.

“I believe this book will bring hope, inspiration and encouragement to everyone who is encountering a difficult time in their life whether it is related to sports, work or personal life,” he said. “The audience for this book is mainly young adults going through similar struggles as I have had but I believe all ages and backgrounds can get a lot out of reading this book from many perspectives.”

The book’s foreword was written by Alabama pastor Buddy Bell, who has been a mentor to Johns.

“Buddy and I met a couple years ago at a Christian college conference, and he has helped mold me into the man I am today,” he said.

Johns said the Tuesday, Jan. 10, book signing went very well and he received great feedback. He found the question-and-answer portion to be very insightful, and looks forward to hosting more events in the future.

When asked how he responds to failure in his sport he replied, “It is important to respond with high character and maturity because when you react negatively it not only affects you and your team, but it feeds the other team’s competitiveness.”

His favorite baseball memory is explained in a passage from “Laugh in the Face of Adversity” that said, “And I was up to bat with an 0-1 count. The pitcher was a side-arm pitcher, he threw a slider, and I hit a 2-run home run over the right center field wall to put us ahead 4-2. We ended up closing them out and winning 5-2 to win the National Championship, and we got to dogpile on the field.”

Assisting Johns at the book signing table was his good friend Alesia Denby, a shortstop on the Fresno State softball team.

“Alesia is also involved in a program outside of baseball I co-founded. Galvanized Global is an online program that helps student-athletes manage stress and achieve success,” he said.

For more information, visit http://www.GGLife.org.

The takeaway Johns believes readers will get from his book is the importance of perseverance. “We are all going to get knocked down in life. Life is difficult. Really difficult. But we need to keep going,” he said. “And if we keep going in pursuit of what we want to achieve, we can become successful.”

A digital copy of “Laugh in the Face of Adversity” can be purchased at https://books.apple.com/us/book/laugh-in-the-face-of-adversity/id6444372973. For a paperback edition, visit http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BMSP4JRC/ref=cm_sw_r_api_i_24H22CRP9ABXB4MCH699_0#.

For more information, visit http://www.gavinjohns.com.