02/07/11 — Dawn Johnson -- column

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Dawn Johnson -- column

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on February 7, 2011 1:47 PM

Dawn Johnson kept "the secret" for so long, she almost forgot about it.

Then she opened her mailbox one day.

Inside was the proof in a letter-sized envelope.

And when Andy Richards, the state director of the N.C. USSSA Slow-Pitch Association called her, Johnson knew it was real. She just couldn't hold "the secret" any longer.

"I just felt it couldn't be true, was too hard to fathom for me," said Johnson. "Until I was sent the letter and when the director called me, I knew then it was for real. I was just in awe, to tell you the truth."

"The secret" became reality when Johnson was recently inducted into the N.C. USSSA Slow-Pitch Softball Hall of Fame. The Goldsboro native, who has played the game for 30-plus years, was nominated by her coach -- the late Milton Stone, who is also a Hall of Fame member.

Johnson was one of six individuals recognized for her exceptional achievements and significant contributions made to the North Carolina USSSA slow-pitch softball program. She was enshrined along with fellow 2010 inductees Sherwood Driver (male player), Chris Alphin (manager/coach), Ted Morris (umpire), Rick Tucker (director) and Charlie Hendrick (special recognition).

"It was a thrill, quite an honor," said Johnson, who received a plaque and gold ring. "It's hard to explain, but I am excited about it."

Johnson began playing softball at 11 years old and honed her skills on the Eastern Wayne softball diamond. She accepted a basketball/softball scholarship to Mount Olive, which at the time, was a two-year junior college in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics ranks.

After her sophomore campaign with the Trojans, Johnson intended to transfer. That decision changed when MOC received accreditation as a four-year school.

She's glad she stayed.

An energetic and enthusiastic person, Johnson was named the athletics program's female athlete-of-the-year in 1986 and '87. She won the team batting average title in 1986.

"That was the highlight of my career," said Johnson.

Until the Hall of Fame induction.

Johnson, who grew up in a family of softball players, has won numerous awards on the state and national level during her career. She's spent countless hours on the diamond, sometimes as many as four nights a week and almost every weekend.

"I've played every position," laughed Johnson. "Softball is kind of an individual thing, but what you do reflects on everyone, so you have to do your part. I really like interacting with the community.

"The Hall of Fame (recognition) just hasn't sunk in."