Termarr Johnson Represents the Next Generation of Baseball
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Johnson enjoying the city. PHOTO BY CARL HARRIS
Like many stellar athletes, Atlanta high school senior Termarr Johnson’s (@termarrrr) pro potential is steadily attracting attention within the league. But the 17-year-old’s spotlight is bigger than personal recognition. That’s mainly because 75 years after Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947, integrating what was then known as “America’s pastime” and making way for later superstars like Reggie “Mr. October” Jackson, the sport is no longer the powerhouse it once was for Black Americans. And Johnson, many think, could change that.
Back in 2019, he proved himself on a bigger stage by leading Team USA in runs scored and stolen bases while also hitting singles, doubles, and triples competing among the best in the Americas. Today, Johnson is a top prospect who, according to mlb.com, is a potential No. 1 draft pick. One scout even believes he will be a consistent 25 to 30 home run threat in the big leagues.
Aside from personally excelling in the sport, Johnson feels deeply committed in a much bigger way. “I wouldn’t be myself without baseball,” he says. “I feel like baseball chose me. My brother hit a home run the day I was born. He came to the hospital and put a baseball in my hand. So ever since then, it has been baseball and me.”
It’s a love Johnson also wants others to experience. He believes in it so much that he prioritizes attending baseball clinics. During his senior year, he also planned many college baseball visits including Arizona State University, Vanderbilt University and the University of Oregon. “Just having more role models” is one way he believes the game can become more popular among his peers and those coming behind them. “In baseball, there’s not really many guys who look like us who play the sport at a high level. The biggest thing is just having role models to show other kids that you can do it.”
Termarr Johnson playing on the field PHOTO BY CARL HARRIS
Johnson also cites expense as another obstacle. “Baseball costs a lot,” he explains. “It’s just a lot of money. Having programs to help lower the cost a little bit probably would help more African Americans play baseball.”
His natural leadership ability is impressive. From an early age, he found himself in elite company. On the heels of Desmond Tutu’s passing, Johnson tweeted a picture of the global figure blowing out candles on his 80th birthday cake surrounded by kids, including himself, and other adults. Johnson visited South Africa in 2011 at age 7 because his family connected with Tutu’s when the archbishop taught at Atlanta’s Emory University (he served as a visiting Robert W. Woodruff professor from 1991 to ’92 and 1998 to 2000).
The athlete visits New York City PHOTO BY CARL HARRIS
“I still remember the trip,” says Johnson. “It was amazing just meeting Desmond Tutu at such a young age. Being exposed to things like that, it was just amazing.”
In addition to his family, attending Benjamin E. Mays High School, one of the city’s most storied, has also spurred him to pursue greatness. Named for the iconic Morehouse president, a man Atlanta native Martin Luther King Jr. himself admired, and ensconced in the city’s predominantly Black Southwest area, Mays is the alma mater of current Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens, three-fourths of Goodie Mob, TLC’s Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas, Dillard University President Dr. Walter Kimbrough, acclaimed visual artist Radcliffe Bailey and South Side co-creator Diallo Riddle, among others.
“Mays has a rich history of creating all different types of amazing people—mayors, councilmen,” he says. “For me, to just carry on that legacy [is] amazing. Every time I step on that field, I plan to uphold that image.”