Dec. 8—To complement the inaugural season of the Independence League Baseball Association, a new head coach will lead the Badlands Big Sticks in 2022.
After deliberation of several applicants, each with their set of skills and talents, the Badlands Big Stick announced on Nov. 29 that Cam Johnson will take over as head coach for the 2022 season. They believe that he will be a good fit for their organization, offering young players great insight and positive motivation throughout the season.
"It's a beautiful ball park and talking to Jason (Watson) I got the feeling that everyone in the organization is very loyal and has a really good support in the town of Dickinson," Johnson said. "Knowing that the stands are going to be packed every night and being able to provide our guys that experience is what fired me up the most. I want them to have a really good experience so when they leave after the summer they will want to come back again."
Johnson is 26 years old and will have his birthday in June. He hopes to celebrate it with a home game win — if the season schedule allows it.
Big Sticks General Manager Jason Watson got into contact with Johnson from a mutual baseball connection that regarded Johnson's talents and hunger for coaching a successful baseball team.
"I think he is the best fit of all the applicants that applied ... He has a passion for baseball. He wants to learn the game and now he'll be put into the situation where he will be running the show and I think that is what all younger coaches want is that experience," Watson said. "Talking with him and doing reference checks on him, he is ready for that position."
According to Watson, after two years with the Big Sticks Billy Tomblin was unable to continue his tenure as head coach in order to focus his coaching efforts at Mayville State University. Though Tomblin's presence will be missed, the Big Sticks are very excited to bring in Johnson while still offering the entertaining atmosphere that is expected at their home games at the Dakota Community Bank and Trust Ballpark.
"Big Sticks are going to be the same. Still going to be in the community doing community service projects. We are still going to put on a great show at the ballpark," Watson said. "The No.1 priority at the ballpark is making sure our fans are having a good time and enjoying the atmosphere and the experience of coming to a Big Sticks game."
Johnson is an Iowa native from Altoona and started playing baseball at the age of six. During his collegiate career, he played at the Division III level for Buena Vista University, located in Storm Lake, Iowa and was part of over 120 wins.
His coaching career started seven years ago at his high school alma mater, Southeast Polk High School in Pleasant Hill, Iowa. He held an assistant coach position for two years and contributed to the team's entry into the state tournament in his second year.
"My biggest thing is energy. Playing everyday can sometimes turn into a long summer when it's hot and you are doing a lot of traveling," Johnson said. "At the end of the day we want this to be a fun experience but also we want to be very competitive and win a lot of games. Bringing that good energy and positivity to the ballpark everyday is going to help us do what we want to do this summer."
In 2018 he took his coaching experience to the collegiate level at Des Moines Area Community College in Boone, Iowa. Currently he leads the strength and condition program and is the assistant hitting coach.
Johnson's first season at DMACC was one of high success, winning the ICCAC regular-season title — their first since 2014.
"As for the coaching aspect I see the game a little bit differently now too than I did as a player," Johnson said. "My big thing is taking care of the baseball and so I am going to expect really good defense because that is what is going to win us a championship at the end of the summer and I want guys that really want to be there."
An additional reason for the Big Sticks acquiring Jonhson was his ability to recruit. As part of a junior college coaching staff, Jonhson has sent over 40 players to four-year institutions. One of which, Austin Murr, would eventually be drafted in the MLB in the sixth round by the Detroit Tigers.
"My job is to always try and bring in the best team possible every year. Great players on the field and great people off the field who are participating in our community," Watson said. "That was another reason why I chose Cam because I didn't know him and he has his own baseball connections on how to get good players to come here this summer."