FRANKLIN FURNACE – There was a special feeling amongst those gathered together in the gymnasium at Green High School Friday afternoon. Pride, excitement, jubilation; whatever emotional adjective you’d like to use, those gathered for the signings of Bobcat seniors Tanner Kimbler and Bryce Ponn to play baseball at Shawnee State University felt it when celebrating the pair’s outstanding achievement, and their ability to continue playing the sport they love for the next four years.
“I’ve worked really hard my whole life to be able to get this opportunity,” said Kimbler at the joint signing ceremony in Franklin Furnace Friday. “To be able to make this decision for me and my family, it’s a really great feeling.”
Kimbler has starred on the baseball diamond and on the hardwood for four seasons in the Bobcat uniform, and upon graduation this May from Green and into the next chapter of his life, he’ll look back fondly on memories made, on and off the playing surface.
“The team is just so close, it’s a great feeling. We go out to practice every day and work and have fun while we do it, playing here has been really special.”
When attending Shawnee State this fall, Kimbler plans on majoring in physical therapy.
As a member of the Portsmouth Post 23 baseball club during the summers and playing for Green during the spring, Kimbler will always look fondly on the relationships he developed with Post 23 and East head coach Matt Miller, as well as Bobcats head coach Danny McDavid.
“Coached Miller’s really helped me out during the summers; Hundreds of ground balls, hundreds of pitches thrown to me. It means a lot to have him here supporting me. Coach McDavid’s been a great coach for us, you never know what you’re going to get out of him. I wouldn’t have wanted anybody else being there for us.”
Even though he has his college decision settled prior to the season, Kimbler still has plans for what he would like for himself and his team to be able to accomplish during his senior campaign.
“Definitely want to get the SOC again, we’d like to do that for the third straight year. I think we’d like to get a district title, and maybe even make a push for a regional title.”
Friday’s joint signing between Ponn and Kimbler not only signifies their relationship as teammates and friends, but also the level of success the Bobcats have seen in all areas of athletics in the last couple of years.
“Being able to go on and play with a teammate, that’s what really makes this special,” said Ponn. “Usually when you graduate you leave your high school teammates behind. But being able to play college baseball is a really special feeling. It’s a great feeling, not just for me and Tanner, but also for our school. Hopefully this will bring more male and female athletes up and give them the opportunity to play at the next level.”
Shawnee’s proximity to home gives Ponn the ability to play the game he loves close to his home, but maybe more importantly, it keeps him close to his friends and family members he would have otherwise left behind, something that helped make his decision to become a Bear that much easier.
“Being local is definitely one of the biggest contributing factors,” said Ponn. “I know a lot of kids that go there, and I know a lot of people going there next year. I’d like to stay around here and be around them until we part our ways eventually.”
Interestingly enough, Ponn also plans on studying physical therapy following graduation this May and upon enrolling at Shawnee State. After a knee injury sustained during football season, Ponn made the decision to study physical therapy after going through the rehab process and learning what the profession takes first hand.
Ponn also highly regards McDavid, and says that throughout his high school career, he wouldn’t have had any other coach lead him along the way.
“When I’m with coach McDavid, it’s a completely different level of intensity. His coaching style keeps kids into the game and keeps everyone motivated, he instills a fire in us that makes us want to win as much as we can.”
Like his teammate, Ponn also believes that this year’s group of Bobcats have unfinished business to attend to during their final season donning the green and white.
“Getting a district and regional title has always been the goal,” said Ponn. “Ever since I moved here during my sophomore year, Coach McDavid has always told us he sees a final four in us, and I see it too. We still have the team to do it, we just have to stay confident in ourselves and do it.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT