MURRAY— Our first Murray High nominee for Athlete of the Year comes to us from the baseball diamond in the form of sophomore catcher Kade Gibson.
“Just based on the title, Athlete of the Year, he had a phenomenal season on the field,” said Sam Rushing, head baseball coach for Murray High. “Kade is one of those kids that is the total package. He does all of his work in the classroom … He is very active in his church and community … He carries himself very well on the field and off.”
This athlete finished the year with a 3.5 GPA, .392 batting average, .958 fielding percentage and most impressively just five strikeouts over 31 games. As a catcher, Gibson is involved in every pitch and he wouldn’t want anything less.
“Being involved in every single play,” Gibson said. “I know that I’m going to have to do something with whatever is coming, whether it’s blocking a ball, catching it, throwing somebody out, I just like to be involved in every single play.”
Gibson led by example in his approach at the plate with a team-high 20 RBIs, seven doubles, and the top batting average on the team by over 130 points. He impacted the game in every single facet, whether he was batting, fielding, or just being a teammate offering support from the dugout. On top of all of that, Gibson was also a stellar relief pitcher for the Tigers this year with just 10 hits surrendered over 10.2 innings pitched.
“I like closing the games. It’s what I enjoyed the most,” Gibson said. “If you get put in a bad situation, you know you’ve got to get out of this to help your team out. Coming in and everybody thinks you’re under all this pressure, but I just go in and pitch. Don’t have to worry about it.”
Off the field, Kade said he’s not like your average kid that’s playing video games or spending time inside.
“I’ve never really cared for them and I’ve never owned a gaming system,” Gibson said. “I just enjoy being outside, riding my four-wheeler, hunting, and fishing.”
He’s been playing baseball in some way, shape or form since he was 3 years old on the T-ball fields at Central Park in Murray. Now, he’s getting to play at the varsity level at Murray High, and he said the challenge is finding the right balance between school and sports.
“It’s easy to slack behind and if you don’t keep your school side up then you can’t play baseball,” Gibson said. “It can be hard to balance because you study and then have to play a game the next day, and know you might not go to bed until midnight that night, and then you have to get up and go to school and play baseball again the next day.”
The grind never stops for a high school athlete, especially one that is dedicated to perfecting his craft like Gibson. Coaches tend to notice things like that too.
“He really bought in this year that the harder you work in practice, the easier the game gets, and we saw a lot of growth and development from that,” Rushing said. “He’s a competitor. He doesn’t like to strike out. When you don’t like to do something, you tend to not do it, of course; that’s easier said than done with striking out. He just knows exactly what he wants to do when he steps into the box.”
When Kade isn’t playing baseball or taking part in an outdoor activity, you can typically find him at church or a charitable function. He was a member of the Panama City Beach disaster relief team, helps with Tuesday’s in the park, and “a lot of church stuff too.”
Playing a position like catcher takes its toll on the body. Squatting for long stretches and having to slide side to side and block the ball with your body can leave lasting impressions, but Gibson said he deals with it well.
“Besides the fact that every time I squat, (my knees) pop, and being 16 years old and grunting to get out of bed, it’s not bad,” Gibson said. “It could be a lot worse.”
Coach Rushing said there were several plays this year that he thinks about when it comes to Gibson. At-bats and plays behind the plate jump to mind, but only one play truly defines the year that he had and how he improved from one game to the next.
“There was a play in the semifinals of the All-A where a runner got caught between third and home, and Kade came up and threw the ball really quick. Well, when he threw it, the guy just took off home and scored. I don’t know if it was by design or what, but in the championship game against Carlisle, they did the same thing. They must’ve watched our semifinal game, and they sent a runner out between home and third thinking Kade was going to come up and panic and throw it again, but Kade kept it in his pocket this time and ran the guy back, made a little toss, got the tag out, and that was from one night to the next. One game to the next. It just showed his learning curve …That play represents his growth for the year.”