Kibler Stepping Up in West Michigan

Few have the ability to throw a ball 90 MPH - let alone throw it with consistency. A southpaw is the cream of the crop to the baseball gods. It's like finding gold: It's valuable, unique and hard to find. With right-hander Alfredo Figaro gone, what we are left with now is southpaw sizzler Jonathan Kibler of the West Michigan Whitecaps.

Kibler has been in the shadows of Figaro all season. Once Figaro was promoted July 29 to Double-A Erie, Kibler took the helms and is now in West Michigan's spotlight as the great hope of leading them to a consecutive championship in the Midwest League. At 6-foot-5 210 pounds, Kibler has the frame of a power pitcher that puts fear in batters' eyes.

Although he can bring the heat, it's not his fastball that fools hitters, no, it's his brilliance and knack for precision on his off-speed pitches that gives him an edge to any opponent willing to test his arm.

"I'm just trying to go out each time and keep us in the game," Kibler humbly said.

Kibler has broke out onto his own now and is quite the poster-boy of Midwest League pitchers as his name is seen throughout the top rankings of the league leaders. He leads all Midwest League pitchers with 13 wins (13-4) and innings pitched at 141.1. His ERA of 1.72 is second only to once reliever of South Bend, Daniel Stange, who only pitched in 11 games for the Silver Hawks. He sits sixth in strikeouts at 112 and has come ever so close to perfection, pitching four two hit games.

"That's baseball; what can you say?" Kibler said. "Things like that happen from time to time. Evidently, (the perfect games) wasn't meant to be."

Born August 10, 1986 in Freeland, Maryland, Jonathan "Kibbles N' Bits" Kibler earned two letters under Coach Lou Eckert at Calvert Hall High School. Though he was cut from his baseball team his freshman year, he later would earn all-metro honors and played in the Maryland High School All-Star baseball game. With football—as a guard and tackle— Kibler earned all-conference honors.

After graduating high school, he attended Dundalk (Md.) Community College, where in 2006 he made the NJCAA Division II All-American third-team after posting an 11-2 record with a 1.63 ERA, while striking out 70 batters and walking just 17 in 88 innings pitched. Aside from his All-American honors, he garnished much more notoriety, including being named to the Maryland Junior College All-Conference first-team, a first-team All-Region XX Division II selection, was named to the All-Tournament Region XX Division II team and helped the Lions finish out the 2006 campaign at 32-16, ranking them second in Region XX Division II.

It wasn't long after his Junior College experience that the Division I Michigan State Spartans came knocking. He established himself very well as a Spartan. Kibler was named a third-team All-Big Ten selection and finished seventh in conference games with a 3.92 ERA. The southpaw fired three complete games in Big Ten play, all wins, against Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State and was second on the team with 41 strikeouts and 66.1 innings pitched.

"College was great," Kibler said. "I progressed a lot and learned from great coaches like David Grewe (Michigan State) and coach (Elliott) Oppenheim."

Though his college years were poignant to his playing, it was time for the next step. June 8th, 2007, the Detroit Tigers selected Kibler in the 30th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. In his first year with the Gulf Coach League Tigers, he was named Pitcher of the Year and then was promoted to West Michigan to start the 2008 season.

Like any model athlete he is very humble. He always credits his pitching to the man behind the plate and the defense that gets him the outs.

"It's always great when the catcher and the pitcher are on the same page like that," Kibler said of his many catchers thisThis past season he was named to the All-Star game and was honored with the Midwest Pitcher of the Week award for the week of May 19. During the month of July he proved to be dominant with a 4-1 record and posted a 0.89 ERA.

"I always try to do the same thing every time," Kibler said. "I pitch for contact, and as long as they are playing good defense behind me then everything should go well. As long as we win I don't care. I just try to keep us in the game. That's all you can do."

West Michigan fans just hope his heroics can last well throughout the playoffs next month.

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