© Steven Mah
Swift Current Indians’ outfielder Josh Johnson has been on the move ever since he arrived in Swift Current. The Tampa, Florida native currently leads the Western Major Baseball League with 30 stolen bases in just 37 games.
If the 5’10’’, 195-pound speedster reaches first base – and he does often considering he sits third in the league with a .381 average – it is a good bet that he won’t be there long.
Not surprisingly, Johnson also leads the WMBL in runs scored with 42 and his Bethune-Cookman University Wildcats teammate Eros Modena led the league with 42 runs batted in after the weekend.
“I am trying to get on base and get myself over. [Matt] Spillman does a great job of letting me advance on the bases. I just try to get Eros his RBI’s and score some runs early. Early runs are the most important because that is where you get all your momentum from. That’s my role is trying to get some momentum early,” explained Johnson after Sunday’s win over Medicine Hat.
“When he gets on base we score runs, that’s the bottom line,” said manager Joe Carnahan. “His speed is a game changer. When he gets on base it opens up a lot of holes and gives guys some opportunity to drive him in.”
Johnson said that a little more than just speed is involved in swiping that many bases.
“Nik [Gummeson] does a good job of communicating with us. He gets the speed guys together and says ‘Hey I picked up on hey he shakes his leg before he goes home.’ So there is a little bit of strategy behind it of course. I mean speed definitely helps because if I get a bad jump I can make up for a little bit. The fast guys communicate with each other and then Nik helps us out from the third base box. He calls good times to steal bases. It is pitch calling, technique, and a little speed.”
Carnahan said that Johnson brings a unique skill set to the Indians.
“We have had guys that have been fast, obviously not as fast as him, but as far as a base stealer, I can’t remember having one, even when I was playing, that we have had one like this up here. I mean shoot, he broke the team record in stolen bases halfway through the season. He is what you want for a leadoff guy.”
Johnson said he always has the green light to steal when he is on base and he still had his eye on one more record with three games left in the regular season.
“Yeah Joe texted me when I was in college and said ‘Hey the league record is 36, if you don’t break that I am going to be upset.’ That is what I plan to do. That’s my job.”
The Indians have had their share of ups and downs this season, illustrated by a recent eight-game winning streak, followed directly by a five-game losing streak.
“Sometime the baseball gods are on our side and sometimes they are not,” said Johnson. “We hit the ball hard and even though we were losing we were still hitting the ball hard and they just weren’t dropping. I think sometimes it just doesn’t fall our way. But we are a really good team and when we are rolling I think we can beat anyone.”
Carnahan believes that Johnson’s game-changing speed will be even more important in the playoffs when the games get closer and the team faces better pitching.
“When you have speed you can get three hits without even hitting the ball hard. All of sudden you hit a couple of choppers and you are standing on first base because you legged it out. Speed is one of those things that is something that you can’t teach and if you have a guy that has that it is quite the asset,” said Carnahan.