Johnny Vu is like most other 17-year-old Driveline Academy athletes. He found Driveline on YouTube and watched videos about pro athletes working out at the facility, he has aspirations of playing college baseball, he left his home and family in Las Vegas and moved to Phoenix and lives full time out of a sleeper van so that he could enroll in Driveline’s 12-month Academy program.
Okay, Johnny Vu isn’t exactly like most other Driveline Academy athletes.
It did start with a YouTube video, though. That’s what made Vu convince his dad to travel out to Phoenix with him initially for a week-long assessment in May. And that’s when they met Stephen Streich, Driveline’s Arizona Academy Coordinator.
There were obviously some logistical hurdles to get over, but Vu was extremely intrigued by the Academy. He and his dad told Streich they would stay in touch, and went back to Vegas.
“My initial reaction was to not get too high on this,” Streich said. “I’m not assuming a guy’s going to uplift himself from Vegas and come down to Arizona for the next 12 months.”
But by June, Vu was in. The solution to those logistical hurdles? His parents helped with a down payment on a van that he could live in full time. His mom sewed the mattress he sleeps on every night. He has a cabinet with cooking ingredients, a mini fridge for food, and a portable grill to cook on. He enrolled in dual credit classes online to finish up his high school degree – he’s taking English, Korean and philosophy, among other things – and got a job at a restaurant to make the monthly payments on the van, as well as the fee to join Driveline’s Academy.
It’s all pretty simple for Vu.
“I just want to make it to the next level, and I felt like this is the best place to go to do that,” he said. “All I want to do is give it my all. I sacrificed everything to come down here, convinced my parents to let me move here and stay in the family van.”
Vu works out like an athlete who knows he’s laying it all on the line, too. He practically lives at the Driveline gym, both for the air conditioning (his van was without it for the first couple weeks of July heat in Phoenix) and the opportunity to get better as a baseball player.
And Driveline has turned out to be everything he thought it would be, from the YouTube videos he first watched to the glimpses he got during his initial assessment in the spring.
That hard work has turned Vu into a much better ball player.
When he first assessed in May, Vu had an average exit velocity of 74.2 mph. Less than three months later, it’s up to an average of 78.7 mph, while consistently finding barrels that get up above 90 mph.
Why might that be? Vu has made solid gains in the High Performance workouts. In squat jump peak power, Driveline’s best indicator of how hard a player can throw and how hard he can swing the bat, Vu jumped from 4,111 Watts during his initial assessment to 4,712 Watts at the end of July. He’s also put on good body weight, up from 163 pounds in early June to 180 pounds now.
In light of all that, Vu is quite the motivation for the rest of the athletes in the Academy program. It’s tough to come to the gym with an excuse as to why you can’t give 100 percent that day when you see Vu jump out of his van with a big smile on his face, ready to tackle another workout.
He’s the model citizen of the Arizona Academy, a poster boy for the “no excuses” mindset, living without walls to even hang that poster on.