EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Where Daniel Johnson’s baseball journey started is where he hopes it takes him back to his ultimate goal.

Johnson starred at New Mexico State for years, before getting drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. Now, his path has brought him back to the Borderland; Johnson was called up to the El Paso Chihuahuas from Double-A San Antonio by the Padres on Monday.

He made the most of his first game in the Borderland in seven years, going 3-4 with a home run in his El Paso debut.

“It’s refreshing. Being injured last year, it was a down year. Having to reboot this year and having a good season so far, it’s nice to be back to normal,” Johnson said on Wednesday afternoon.

On the season, Johnson is hitting .268 with 14 home runs and 55 RBI, the majority of it in Double-A San Antonio. It’s been a long road for Johnson since he left Las Cruces.

After being drafted by the Nationals in the fifth round in 2016, Johnson made his MLB debut with the Cleveland Guardians in 2020. He played in 30 games for Cleveland in 2020 and 2021, before an injury-plagued 2022 season led him to the Padres organization, where he was toiling in Double-A until his call-up to El Paso.

“I’ve been trusting the process. I got a taste of it once and you don’t want to go back down once you get there,” Johnson said. “I’m fighting to get back up there. I wouldn’t say I’m taking it more seriously because I did that in the past, but just use experience from before, on what I could’ve done better to tighten up the loose ends of the game.”

Johnson was the first of four former Aggies to make it to the Big Leagues in the last four seasons. Pitcher Kyle Bradish made his debut in 2022 and is now in the running for the American League Cy Young Award with the Baltimore Orioles, while infielders Joey Ortiz and Nick Gonzales received Big League call-ups in 2023.

Gonzales was the first player from NMSU to be selected in the first round of the MLB Draft back in 2020, the same year Johnson made his MLB debut. Johnson is proud of being a pioneer of sorts for NMSU baseball at the highest level.

“I didn’t expect it to be like that after me being there and kind of setting the tone for the program’s turnaround,” Johnson said. “I didn’t expect to see that many guys from New Mexico State getting to the Major Leagues, but it’s nice to see because it can be done by anyone. I’m happy for all of them. Hopefully we can keep getting more draft picks and more first rounders.”

Johnson hasn’t been made any promises by the Padres about a potential September call-up to the Big Leagues, but if it comes, he’ll be ready. His long journey around the baseball world has taught him that that’s the most important thing.

Johnson had another hit and RBI in El Paso’s 6-1 loss to Sacramento on Wednesday night.