“How cool an atmosphere for the debut I had and we were all smiling big time.”

Winnipeg-born-and-raised Ryan Johnson made his pitching debut on May 29 with the Winnipeg Goldeyes -- the first local ball player to make the team since pitcher Donnie Smith in 2006.

He attributes his success to basic genetics.

“You get more opportunities when you are bigger and left-handed,” says Johnson. “There are not too many lefties out there; it definitely opened a lot of doors.”

Johnson had to leave the province to pursue his career. After Grade 11 at Sturgeon Heights High School, he headed west to play and graduate in St. Albert, Alta. The next stop was southbound to Missouri, then Idaho, and then a stop in Texas.

Johnson is happy to be home to see familiar faces.

“It was a pretty amazing feeling being at home and in front of everyone,” he says.

Along with friends and family, Johnson’s former teammates were in the crowd on his opening day game.

“They were up in the Box O there,” he says, pointing to the stands. “They were going bananas the whole time. That made me laugh.”

Johnson, like most athletes, has had some form of routine for good luck before each game, but as he gets older, things have changed.

“I used to have this mind-set routine, all this kind of stuff, then I’d have a bad game,” he says. “Wait a sec, I’d do all these things right and I still had a terrible game, then what does it really matter?”

He now has only one pre-game routine and doesn’t think it’s superstitious.

“I listen to the same music before and try and get in the zone, but that’s it,” he says.

So far his routine is working. He was the winning pitcher on his major league debut. Johnson is very optimistic that “the Fish” will have a great season.

“I think we are going to do pretty good,” he says.