On the mound and in the batter’s box

On the mound and in the batter’s box

Johnathan Lavallee (32) throws a pitch against Los Angeles Mission College at Joe Kelly Field in Woodland Hills, Calif. on April 12, 2019. The Brahmas lost 8-7. Photo by Blake Williams.

Stepping onto the mound at Dodger Stadium, Johnathan Lavallee looked up into rows of empty seats, and at that moment, he could see his dreams becoming a reality.

He pitched at the stadium when Brahmas’ head coach Bill Picketts’ friend, who is a scout for the Dodgers, needed some players to test out a new machine that registers how fast the ball is being thrown and hit.

“When I was on that mound, it was a different feeling than I have ever felt before,” Lavallee said. “At that moment I was like this is where I belong, this is where I need to be.”

Lavallee is moving closer to returning to the historic ballpark as he is currently the ace of the Brahmas pitching staff and one of their best offensive players.

Picketts said Lavallee getting that opportunity was a neat experience for him, even though there was nobody in the stands because it gave him a different outlook.

“It’s something that the players dream about and if they never have that experience, it is tough to realize it and make it happen,” Picketts said.

Lavallee said the experience of pitching and the looking up at the size of the stadium was intimidating.

“You are on the mound looking up, but looking at all the seats you could literally see it curve in when you know it doesn’t curve in,” Lavallee said.

Lavallee’s love for baseball was sparked by watching others play it.

“Watching my brothers play and seeing them succeed to then watching the highest level of play and wanting to get to that highest level,” Lavallee said.

Lavallee is a two-way player on the team, however, he cannot say that he likes either one more, as long as he is in the game.

“I see myself more as a pitcher going farther into the future,” Lavallee said. “It’s basically the same. I have the same amount of fun pitching as I do hitting.”

Picketts said that Lavallee has been awesome with his skills because it is a hard thing to do.

“He might be one of the better pitchers in the conference with his numbers,” Picketts said.

Picketts also said that Lavallee has a phenomenal work ethic. He highlighted the strides Lavallee made from last year to this year by preparing himself mentally and physically in the offseason.

“His pitching has been great,” Picketts said. “He is actually swinging the bat pretty well and being pretty offensive. He made a commitment and hard work pays off.”

Lavallee said before games it is important for him to visualize the game and meditate.

“It helps me stay calm and focused on what I can control because I hate not knowing of something I can control,” Lavallee said. “So the meditation helps me stay in the moment, stay with what I can control.”

Lavallee said his mental game has been his weakest part of his game but he is taking steps to improve it with the help from his teammates.

“I knew that I would have some big role to play whether it be a starter, a leader or a producing guy,” Lavallee said. “So developing that mental game really helps me focus on what really matters such as getting this team on track.”

Lavallee’s teammate Diego Harris has been a big help in strengthening the mental side of his game.

“I told him he needed to meditate more and focus on his breath,” Harris said.  “And just be able to live in the present moment, no matter what happened in the past or what he is about to face in the future.”

Lavallee said his father is his inspiration because he works hard day and night to put food on the table as well as a roof over his head.

“This whole thing of playing baseball, I’m not just doing it for me, but I’m doing it for him,” Lavallee said. “So when he is a bit older I can take care of him as much as he is taking care of me.”

When it comes to attending a division one school after Pierce, he said there is no specific school he would go to.

“My main focus is just a school that I would be great in and that I will get playing time,” Lavallee said. “I can go to Vanderbilt and have 10 innings or I can go to CSUN and get 60 to 80.”

He cares more about getting on the field so he can continue to improve.

“This is how you are going to progress rather than just sitting on the bench wearing the uniform,” Lavallee said.

His off-field hobbies include anything that is done outdoors, such as swimming and hiking.

When he’s not doing something outdoors, Lavallee admits that he is a sneakerhead.

“I like good shoes,” Lavallee said. “So if I have the type of money, I will spend a few on shoes.”

After Pierce, Lavallee said his academic plans are up in the air because he has so much faith he will get to where he wants in the sport.

While being at Pierce for two years, Lavallee has tried to relate his academics to baseball. He has focused on kinesiology and exercise science.

Lavallee said the level where he is at now is all about growth. His focus is on the progression of the team and still having fun while playing.

“It’s not about getting to a state championship, it is all about getting to that division one school,” Lavallee said. “So you can see your name on that draft board.”