From the moment that he stepped onto a baseball diamond prior to his first T-ball practice, Montezuma-Cortez High School senior Dylan Kibel sought to stand out as his team’s hardest worker.
Whether that meant arriving at his team’s field early to take extra batting practice or staying well after a Friday night contest to visit with coaches about his swing or base running, the Panthers shortstop never cut corners.
Now, thanks to years of committing to the sport that he loves, Kibel will have the opportunity to compete at the college level when he suits up for Valley City State University, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics in Valley City, North Dakota, next fall.
“I toured (City Valley State) and I really liked it,” said Kibel, who signed a national letter of intent in front of family members and teammates on March 26. I loved the old town and the college. The baseball was a big part of it too; the coaches were really cool.”
A three-year member of the M-CHS varsity program, Kibel emerged as one of his team’s stars two years during a sophomore season that saw him post a .333 batting average while slugging seven doubles and three triples, and driving in 15 runs.
Kibel also played impressively in the field, where he made several highlight-reel plays in the middle of the diamond while showcasing a powerful arm, soft hands and great range in the infield.
“When I got (to M-CHS), it was a little rough, said Kibel, who spent his freshman year of high school playing baseball in Arizona. “I had to earn my spot. (M-CHS Manager) Tim Passell saw me as one of the top guys, and I made myself stay at the top and be a leader.”
Although his junior season was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kibel continued to work hard in a batting cage at his house while getting game reps with the Cortez Freedom Cats club baseball team and participating in camps in Arizona.
After considering other baseball programs that recruited him, Kibel settled on Valley City State after teammate and close friend Ty Blackmer committed to the university this spring.
“(Kibel and Blackmer) feed or each other, and they kind of compete against one another, which makes each of them better,” Passell said. “Having Dylan at shortstop and Ty at second or on the mound has always been great. They’re actually going to room together, so it’s great having them at (Valley City).”
While Kibel figures to bring a consistent bat and solid worth ethic to the Valley City State program, the M-CHS shortstop emphasized that he looks to be a leader on and off the field just as he has throughout his high school career.
“I’m looking to bring my leadership skills and athletic ability to (Valley City State),” said Kibel, who plans to major in the school’s fisheries and wildlife program. “I’m looking to get stronger throughout the process and make an impact from the time I get there.”
“(Kibel) leads by example, and he’s a vocal leader too,” said Passell. “If somebody’s not giving it their all, he’s the first one to step up and say something. That’s what we’re going to miss the most about him in our clubhouse.”
Before leaving for Valley City in August, Kibel will focus on finishing his high school courses and carrying what he hopes will be an outstanding Panthers baseball team to new heights.
“We’ve got four top seniors that have been playing ball together since they were little,” Passell said. “They are all ready for this year. We have big goals for this year, and we just want to send these seniors off right.”
When asked what advice he would give to young players in the local community that one day want to follow in his footsteps and suit up for a college baseball program, Kibel thought for a moment before repeating words that he has heard from coaches since the start of his playing career.
“Work hard,” Kibel said. “I’ve been a on a lot of different teams, I’ve had a lot of different coaches, and every single one of them has said the same thing. If you work hard, and you want to get better and you show that you want to get better, your results will show.”