A 'Rebel' is ripping up the Midwest League

PEORIA – Cubs prospect Rebel Ridling is one of the main reasons the Peoria Chiefs have surged into first place in the second half of the season and are eyeing a playoff berth.

Along the way, Ridling has picked up the Midwest League Home Run Derby crown, been named the Topps Midwest League Player of the Month for July, and recently was awarded a spot on the 2009 Midwest League Post Season All-Star roster.

Not bad for a 25th-round draft pick.

Watching the 6'4", 230 pound first baseman a season ago, one would never have guessed Ridling would be second in the Midwest League in hits (152), fourth in batting average (.308) and second in RBI (90).

But after making adjustments in the offseason, he corrected the holes in his swing and has become one of the most consistent hitters in the league.

"Last season, my average wasn't very well. I struck out a lot and battled the last few games of the year to make it to .200," Ridling said. "I made a few adjustments with my swing with instructional ball last year. I worked with some of the guys there and they showed me a couple things I needed to fix to have greater success.

"My home runs are kind of down compared to last year, but my average is up and I'm driving in a lot of runs. I'm hitting for a better average and letting everything else come. It's something I have done a good job of and I'm pretty happy with it."

Ridling's home run totals may be down from last season (15 in 493 at-bats this year compared to 10 in 165 at Peoria in 2008), but he is still tied for seventh in the Midwest League this season in round-trippers.

Because of his ability to hit the long ball, Ridling participated in the Home Run Derby at this year's All-Star Game in Clinton, Iowa, and walked away the Midwest League Champion by blasting 12 homeruns.

"I've been in a couple home run derbies in high school and won one of those," Ridling said. "I've had a little bit of success in home run derbies before. I came out and did well in this one. It was fun and pretty exciting. It was nice to get that under my belt as well."

Not only did Ridling pick up hardware at the All-Star game, he has continued to pick up accolades throughout the season. He was named the Topps Midwest League Player of the Month for July, and was placed on the 2009 Midwest League Post Season All-Star roster.

These honors have only helped boost the confidence of a player that was drafted in the later rounds of the 2008 draft.

"It's nice; there are a lot of good players in the league," the former Oklahoma State Cowboy said. "I played with some of them in college, and at the end of the year it's nice to be mentioned with some of those guys. It's something I'm proud of.

"I'm up there with a mindset that you've got to play no matter what round you're drafted in. It's nice to be up there at the top with a lot of good players and it gives me some personal confidence."

One thing that may be easily overlooked that makes his numbers more impressive is that Ridling has played in all but one game so far this season.

"My junior and senior year at Oklahoma State, I played in every game; every inning one year and almost every inning last year," Ridling said. "It's one of those deals where I've rolled out there and played and kind of gotten used to it."

Coming from the state of Oklahoma, one might wonder if Rebel is just a nickname, but it is actually his birth name.

"I've got the double-R initials in my family. The entire guys' first name start with R's," Ridling explained. "There are probably 10 or 15 of us that have the double-R initials between my grandpa, uncles, and cousins. That's what they gave me."

Northsiders Report Top Stories