Bill Rozak

The backside of Wyatt Johnson's left hand looks like some kind of map with symbols possibly directing the way to buried treasure.

But it's no map, it's a reminder of how close the Sonora High Wildcat senior baseball player came to losing his hand in a vehicle crash.

"I was going 15 mph in my truck, I shifted into second gear and I

started going off the side of the road, so I over-corrected," said

Johnson. "I had a lifted Toyota and it just rolled right over. When it

rolled, my hand flew out the window because they were down and the

truck landed on it. My hand was pretty much crushed."

An ambulance drove to Johnson to Sonora Regional Medical Center

where they immediately arranged for him to be airlifted to Modesto to

see a hand specialist.

"They told me at the hospital I was about 20 minutes away from

having my hand amputated," said Johnson. "There was no circulation and

it was blue all over. I was in surgery for six hours."

Once out of surgery, there was no guarantee Johnson would be able

to swing a bat, catch the ball in his glove or for that matter, play

baseball again.

"Right after the accident, baseball was the furthest thing from my

mind," said Wildcat head coach and Wyatt's father Scott Johnson. "But

he was already thinking about his rehab after surgery and while he was

in the hospital. It was real scary there for awhile."

The center fielder had to heal for a couple of months before he was

able to pick up a bat or ball. Johnson was cleared in November to do a

little throwing and swinging and around two months ago, he had another

surgery on his pinky and also got eight screws and metal plate inserted

into his hand.

Now Johnson goes to physical therapy two times per week for strengthening his hand in what is supposed to an 18-month rehab.

During baseball practice on Thursday at Bev Barron Field, there

were no visible signs of injury - other than the "map" on his hand -

and the returning All-Valley Oak League First Teamer looked smooth in

the outfield shagging flies as the Wildcats prepared for their season

opener today at Ripon Christian.

"I'm excited, I can't wait to get this season started," said

Johnson, who hit .300 a year ago with an on-base percentage of .438. "I

haven't played in a game in six months because of my hand - so I'm real

excited to play. I had to pretty much re-learn how to use my hand

again. But it feels good now, it was just a little stiff when we first

started practice. My grip strength has gone up."

"The outpouring of community support was tremendous," said Coach

Johnson. "A lot of the baseball team and parents really supported Wyatt

and visited him in the hospital. Without all that support, it would

have been a lot more difficult to get through."