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Where Are They Now?

Johnson Putting Skills To Work During Vanderbilt’s Run

Asa Johnson, a 2014 St. Bonaventure graduate, is chronicling Vanderbilt’s run at the College World Series as part of the school’s video production department. Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics

About 18 months ago, Asa Johnson produced a video which chronicled St. Bonaventure’s first-ever men’s basketball victory at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

Pregame, in-game and postgame, Johnson, who was then a digital media specialist at his alma mater, captured it all in more than eight minutes of Bonnie euphoria.

Others took notice.

In fact, since the Bonnies’ overtime victory that night just days before Christmas 2017, thousands of people have viewed the video on YouTube.

“I got a bunch of comments from people saying how much they enjoyed that one,” Johnson said. ” … That went over well and that was that really good season. I started doing more and more for each game, and the season they had was pretty incredible. That (video at the Carrier Dome) kind of got the ball rolling.”

Umar Alfa poses with a sign honoring Jamestown athletics photographer Walt Roode during a visit to Jamestown last summer. P-J file photo

Rolling all the way, in fact, to Wednesday’s College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. If you looked closely at the ESPN broadcast of the Vanderbilt-Mississippi State game, you might have seen the Jamestown native and Frewsburg Central School graduate in the photographer’s well adjacent to the dugouts on the first- and third-base lines at TD Ameritrade Park.

“You know how sports work,” said Johnson, a video production assistant at Vanderbilt, earlier this week. “You have to be playing well at the right time.”

The son of Bruce and Nancy Johnson was referring to the Commodores’ effort to capture their second CWS championship in school history, but he might have also been describing his journey from Olean to Nashville in the last eight months.

“One thing led to another and here we are,” he said.

And now the 28-year-old is on the NCAA’s biggest baseball stage.

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Johnson was a business management major at St. Bonaventure as well as a member of the school’s baseball team. Upon his graduation in 2014, he interned in the Bonnies’ sports information office.

“When you’re playing, you recognize pretty early if you’re good enough to play at the next level,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I was. I did well for what I had, but I knew playing professional baseball wasn’t in the cards. I still wanted to be around (sports) and in that atmosphere, so I figured working in sports information would allow me to be in that environment when I wasn’t playing.”

To say he was new to the photo/video world, however, would be an understatement.

“I had a camera before, but I didn’t have much interest,” he recalled. “I basically did it just because Alex (who is now his wife) was still playing softball (at St. Bonaventure). I thought it would buy me some time to figure out what I wanted to do. It just kind of worked. I took to it.”

The timing couldn’t have been any better, especially considering how the men’s basketball team was performing under head coach Mark Schmidt. It culminated with a trip to the NCAA Tournament in March 2018.

“Once we kind of got through that, I saw the kind of impact (the videos) had and I was looking around at what other schools do and I thought the stuff that I was producing stood up pretty well,” Johnson said.

His comparison was not reserved only to schools within the Atlantic 10 Conference. Johnson realized that what he was producing compared favorably to some of the video departments in the biggest conferences in the country.

“I think the competitive side of me (kicked in),” he said. “You want to get to the highest levels, and I think within college athletics, the (Southeastern Conference) is kind of regarded as the top conference. I was like, ‘I’m going to give that a shot and see if that would work out.'”

It apparently has.

First, Johnson established a relationship within the Vanderbilt video production department, and when an opening became available, he applied and was ultimately hired. He and Alex moved to Nashville, Tennessee at the end of October 2018.

Among the videos Johnson likes to produce are ones that “take people places that they aren’t normally able to go.”

He added: “They don’t see the travel, they don’t see the practice and the preparation. … It’s really, really cool and impactful to be able to show (the athletes) like that. (I like to) bring (people) into the locker room and be able to show a different side of that. I think if fans like a person off the court or off the field, they’ll be more likely to cheer for them when they’re on it. Shooting them during practice when they’re a little more loose or easy going, I think is important.”

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Vanderbilt (56-11) is the highest-remaining seed in the College World Series. On Wednesday, the Commodores knocked off Mississippi State, 6-3, to keep their quest for a national title intact.

“It’s kind of anyone’s game,” Johnson said. “I’d like to think we’re the favorite, and that would be great, but you never know. That’s why you play the game, I guess.”

Johnson has been there to capture it all.

One photo/video opportunity at a time.

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Umar Alfa, a Jamestown High School graduate, received quite an honor recently.

The former Red Raider football player has been selected to be inducted into the Fresno City (California) College Football Wall of Fame. His name will be etched on the marble wall on the home side of Ratcliff Stadium.

Alfa was selected by a committee of current and former coaches and players, and Wall of Fame members, on the basis of playing ability, positive character and service to the football program. Currently, there are 198 members on the wall.

The Wall of Fame dinner will be held Aug. 11.

Alfa was a lineman during his high school days, playing for former Jamestown head coach Wally Huckno.

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Connor Grey (Frewsburg/Frewsburg) has a 2-0 record with a 3.09 earned run average for the Class AA Jackson Generals of the Southern League this spring.

In seven appearances, including three starts, covering 23 1/3 innings, Grey has struck out 15 while allowing 10 runs (eight earned) and walking seven batters. Opponents have a .270 average against the 6-foot right-hander, who is a 2016 graduate of St. Bonaventure University.

The Generals entered Tuesday with a 39-31 record, five games back of the first-place Montgomery Biscuits in the North Division.

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Dani Reinwald (Clymer/Clymer) is enjoying a stellar first season in Australia, playing for the Whittlesea Pacers in the Big V Basketball League.

The 2018 Medaille College graduate is leading the league in rebounding at 18.0 per game and she is second on the Pacers, scoring 18.08 points per game.

Reinwald is averaging 38.4 minutes per game and is shooting 39 percent from the field. She scored a season-high 27 points in the Pacers’ opening game. On six occasions, she has eclipsed 20 rebounds in a game, including a season-high of 24 against the Bulleen Boomers on May 25.

Teammate Rachel Bell is leading the league in scoring at 26.17 points per game while grabbing 5.75 rebounds per game.

Whittlesea is just 3-9 on the season, having lost its last two games, 95-58 to the Keilor Thunder, and 99-54 to the Hume City Broncos. The Pacers return to action Saturday against the Sunbury Jets.

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