Rocket's fire still burns for pro baseball
By Zachary Dzurick
Published June 22, 2005
here for an archive of West Life Sports Editor Zachary
Dzurick's "Red Right 88" weekly columns.
love of the game still drives Bay Village resident Joe Kilburg.
Nearing his 30th birthday, the Bay High graduate is still chasing
his dream of playing professional baseball.
Drafted by the hometown Indians in 1987, after his junior year at
Stanford, Kilburg is now in his 9th year of professional baseball
playing for the Nashua Pride in the independent Atlantic League.
It is his second stint playing for the Pride. In 2003, the second
baseman hit .314 in 117 games. That performance got him signed by
the Boston Red Sox and spent 2004 split between Double A Portland
and Triple A Pawtucket.
This season Kilburg is hitting .326 with 42 hits in 129 at bats.
He is happy to be in Nashua but he still is working hard to make
sure his career doesn't end there.
can't complain," Kilburg said. "I played here two years ago and
how I played here is what got me to triple A. I am not ready to
hang up my cleats yet. I want to give it one more try."
Just because the Atlantic is an independent league doesn't mean
the quality of play is low.
"It is a high quality league that gets a lot of scouts," Kilburg
said. "The play is at the same level as Double A and Triple A. It
is a good place. Last year 50 guys were taken and 90 percent went
to Double A or higher."
After his release from Boston's organization, Kilburg was drawn
back to Nashua because of the manager, a former Boston Red Sox.
"I am in Nashua for one reason and that is Butch Hobson," Kilburg
said. "I told him when I was here before that I would play for him
anywhere and at any time. He is an amazing guy and a wonderful manager.
He was a good ball player too but he is an even better person in
life. I can't speak highly enough about him.
"I admire the way he approaches life and the game. He knows how
to control a clubhouse. He is an Alabama country boy but he has
been in the majors. He shows up every day and works hard. All he
asks is that you give maximum effort."
One advantage of being an independent team outside of the Major
League organizational system is that a team can be independent and
sign only the type of players it wants rather than who the big league
"Here Butch and the general manager determine the roster," Kilburg
said. "There is no scouting director and no high draft pick the
organization has invested a lot of money in that has to be pushed
through. The guys are all hand picked."
Kilburg is having a solid season and while he is enjoying his time
in Nashua, he still strives for more.
am happy with how the year has gone and I am content that I am still
getting better every day," Kilburg said. "But I am not content to
finish my career here. I want to get back into organizational baseball.
I want to get back to triple A and then see how it goes from there.
But I understand where I am now at. I am not old but I am getting
older for a baseball player. But I still have goals and aspirations."
Kilburg's determination to keep improving is part of his family
"Even 20 years from now when I am playing in the old timers league
I will still try to be better every day," Kilburg said. "It is just
how I was raised."
Family is important to Kilburg and their support has allowed him
to continue to pursue his baseball career.
"My parents still travel to four or five home games a year then
they try to make four or five more when I am on the road closer
to home," Kilburg said. "It has been much easier when your own parents
say don't quit until they take the uniform off your back. It is
a huge advantage to have the family I have where everyone from my
parents to my brother to my aunts and uncles still support me."