The Badlands Big Sticks have players from 20 different states and 19 different colleges. Players traveled from as far as nearly 2,000 miles away to get to Dickinson this summer all for one thing, to get a chance to play the game they love.
“The nice thing with this is they have one thing in common, and it’s baseball,” head coach Billy Tomblin said.
From one side of the diamond to the other the Badlands Big Sticks are one of the most diverse summer baseball teams you’ll see, and it’s those differences that continue to bring players back.
“I came up last year not knowing what to expect, but it was the best summer of my life, so I came back this year,” pitcher Malik Barrington said.
Their time spent on the diamond is what brings the team together. They all have a drive to succeed, but more importantly to learn.
“The way I see it, playing baseball you have to be a sponge of knowledge,” Barrington said. “Different guys come from different programs with different philosophies, so as much as you can learn on the field it’s better for you.”
Big Sticks’ players have all been taught different philosophies, but because they speak the language of baseball they are able to learn from one another.
“Baseball is a multi-language sport,” Gaylan Young said. “For the most part, everything is done the same. It doesn’t matter where you’re from even though some things are done a little bit different. I think it just helps we all have a common goal to come here, get better and win games.”
While the Big Sticks are focused on another Expedition League championship, head coach Billy Tomblin, a California transplant who played college baseball in North Dakota, says it’s important to see the bigger picture.
“A lot of the time it was really about adapting and learning the North Dakota way, you know hunting, fishing and things like that,” Tomblin said. “When you can bring a group of guys together for 55-60 days it really opens people’s eyes to what life is outside of what you know.”
Tomblin says winning will be a by-product of the chemistry off the field, and his goal is to make sure when the last strike is thrown the Big Sticks have grown as both baseball players and men.
“That’s got to be your number one goal as a college coach, in my opinion, is we’re here to turn them from boys to men because for some of these guys baseball is going to end when college is over and you’re going to have to make some big decisions as to where do I go next in life,” Tomblin said
The Big Sticks return to the field Tuesday night against Pierre.