CHICAGO -- As Erik Johnson sat across the White Sox clubhouse from Marcus Semien's locker Thursday, he spoke in his typically succinct manner of their intertwining baseball paths.
"It makes me comfortable when he's out there playing behind me," said Sox right-hander said.
Johnson and Semien, an infielder, were two of 15 players named to Baseball America's minor league All-Star first team Thursday, one of several shared experiences for the pair of California natives.
They were college roommates at Cal and also played summer ball together in the Northwoods League in Minnesota. The White Sox drafted them in 2011 and they received their first major league call-ups Sept. 3.
"We've been together through everything, actually," Semien said. "It's pretty cool. If you have any questions, you can always go to him and ask because we've kind of gone through the same things. You don't feel like you're alone through this."
Johnson said he and Semien have similar mentalities, and each described the other as a serious, hard worker.
"I try to use some of his qualities because he does it the right way," Semien said.
They played together during a rare season for Cal. Before their junior year in 2011, the university announced baseball was one of five sports that would be cut because of budget constraints, a major shock to the players, Semien said.
Fans, alumni -- even Stanford supporters, Johnson said -- donated time and money to raise the $10 million needed to keep the program, and the Bears responded by making it to the College World Series that June.
"That was some of the most fun I've ever had playing baseball," Semien said. "I'll never forget that year."
Sox manager Robin Ventura said he watched Johnson and Semien play in college and called the program's comeback a "neat story."
"The program's safe, and it will be everlasting," Johnson said. "It was definitely something to internalize because that season was very special to me, as well as all of my teammates. It felt very much like family. We were playing for each other because we (thought it) was the last season."
Johnson and Semien each spent their third seasons in the minor leagues with Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Since joining the Sox this month, Johnson has an 0-2 record with a 4.66 ERA in two starts, while Semien entered his fourth start at third base Thursday having gone 2-for-11 with one RBI.
Birmingham manager Julio Vinas said Thursday the promotion of Johnson and Semien is exciting for his players, who are playing in the Southern League finals this week for the first time since 2002. Outfielder Trayce Thompson said he learned from how Johnson and Semien conducted themselves this season.
"I feel like that's one thing I've noticed about playing with Marcus and Erik," Thompson said. "Take the approach to help the team win every single day and everything will take care of itself."
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