Johnson holds memories of teammate, friend at tourney
Phil Johnson said it is hard to believe 15 years have past since he was named the first Bryan Wilson Sportsmanship Award winner in 1999, shortly after the untimely death of the honor's namesake.
"Every time I go out there, it is strange to think another year is gone," Johnson said. "You never forget."
The award is given annually by Bryan's parents, Dale and Deb Wilson, as part of a ceremony at the Harve Johnston/Bryan Wilson Memorial Baseball Tournament. The 15th annual event takes place Saturday and Sunday at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.
Johnson makes a speech each year as a part of the presentation to the winner of the Bryan Wilson Award, which has traditionally gone to a catcher who exemplifies the characteristics that Bryan showed in his life.
"It's an honor and I've always wanted to be a part of the event," Johnson said. "When I was younger, Bryan was a good friend and teammate. It was a tragedy what happened. You don't wish that on anyone or any family."
Bryan was a member of the Mitchell Mavericks 12U baseball team and mainly played at the catcher position. Bryan's accidental death occurred May 13, 1999, at the age of 13.
Johnson said it was very emotional to receive the first Bryan Wilson Award such a short time after the accident.
"I remember giving Dale and Deb a hug with tears running down my face," Johnson recalled about when he accepted the award.
Johnson, who played college baseball at Dakota Wesleyan University and currently competes for the Dimock-Emery amatuer baseball team, was a pitcher on the Mitchell team with Bryan as his catcher.
Along with Johnson, former winners of the Bryan Wilson Award from Mitchell include Josh Wenande and Andrew Tschosik (2001), Jordan Reiner and Jordan Jendersee (2002), Matt Larson (2009) and Carter Max (2012).
"We look for somebody who has good character along with being able to play the game well," Dale Wilson said. "We try to watch to watch all the games and we primarily focus on the catchers because that was our son's main position."
Harve Johnston is also memorialized at the event each year. The former owner of Harve's Sports Shop in Mitchell served as an official for many area athletics over parts of six decades.
The 2014 tournament starts at 8 a.m. Saturday on the east and west softball fields at Cadwell Park. The two-day event includes 34 teams, split into six divisions that are based on the request of the teams. The players are ages 10 to 12. There are five teams from Mitchell scheduled to compete, along with squads from Sioux Falls, Pierre, Brandon and Aberdeen, among others.
The award ceremony, when the Bryan Wilson Award will be handed out, takes place at noon on Sunday.