An interview with Vivid player/sponsor Jon Kilburn
Why do you like the game of softball?
I played baseball, football and wrestled for years. The thing that I always enjoyed about team sports was the comraderie. Being part of a team and having that singular desire to accomplish a goal. After college it was a few years before I found softball, and once I did I was hooked.
Who is the best softball player you have ever seen play?
I’ve seen so many over the past 17 years. My favorite is still Jeff Hall. He’s one of the nicest guys I know and he’s a great hitter and he did a lot for the game.
Who is the best up and coming player in softball and why?
I’d have to give it to my boy Cory Large. Defensively he’s a great ball player, and getting him out is tough. Doesn’t hurt that I like the guy and he’s from Dallas…
What is your nickname in softball?
Oh geez… I have a couple … Roadhouse… KillBomb. Most people only get one, I on the other hand, have a friend (and I will use that term very loosely) who every year tries to find new and embarrassing ways to get me a nickname. A few years ago he found a picture of Patrick Swayze and the movie Road house. He took one of my pictures from when I was a bit younger and put my face over Patricks to make it look like me. Killbomb was another such attempt … although that one didn’t involve any photo shop pictures circulating on Facebook…
What is your height and weight?
5’10”… probably 245.
Where do you call home?
What's your favorite way to spend an off weekend?
At the movies with my wife or playing with my daughter. I know, nothing exciting or fancy about it…but the older I get the crankier I am, so staying home seems like a good idea…
What do you do for a living?
I run a computer software consulting business
Did you play sports in High School / College / Pro?
Baseball and Wrestling.
How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?
Church League. Nothing real exciting. Then one day I met a guy by the nickname of “Big Country” and before I knew it we were playing upper ball. Just like now, being in “upper” ball just meant you knew the right person who could get you on a team or get you hooked up with a sponsor.
What was the most surprising difference between Conference play and non-Conference play when you made the jump?
It’s a strange thing, but I truly enjoy the respect that Conference players have for each other, regardless of what letter is next to your name. It reminds me of the 90’s when there were so many upper teams. The great thing about back then was everyone played, no one cared what letter you had next to you, if you were at the park you were a ball player, and that meant hanging out, grilling, drinking a few beers, playing washers and genuinely having a great time.
Is there a player that you would compare your game to?
Nah. Most of the guys at this level are much better than that.
What would you say is your career highlight to this point? Maybe one play or game that sticks out to you in particular?
Hitting a Grand Slam home run in the mid 90’s with my mother and father watching when we took Church State. I’m sure there were better moments, but that was the first time my parents got to see me play since high school and it was a pretty cool moment.
In your career was there a single person (player/manager/coach) who had the most significant impact on your approach to the game? Why?
Steve Ashmore (Big Country). Some people say he’s crazy…and he probably is…but without him, I would still be sloshing around playing local ball and wouldn’t have half the stories I do now.
What advice can you give a young player trying to break into the upper level?
There are so many things that I’d like to tell them… in fact I have a couple on the roster this year. Couple of first year players and a few second year players. The number one thing, don’t try to be what you’re not. Not everyone can hit the ball like Helmer, so don’t try. Play your game, your way, and be respectful of those guys who have already made it. One of them is very likely to help you find your way, if you ask.
What positions do you play and what is your best position?
I just catch these days. Arthritis in my toes and ankles have pretty much ruined me from playing any other position.
What batting grip do you use and what ounce bat?
I use a traditional baseball style grip that lines my knuckles up. I swing a 27 or 27.5 oz bat.
What do you do in the offseason to prepare for the next softball season?
I keep doing BP. We have a DBats facility in Frisco. I try to go and hit at least 3 times a week for about 150-200 balls. That and get to the gym more often. It’s harder in the winter to go work out…although my business usually slows so I have the extra time.
What is your favorite sports team and your favorite sport other than softball?
Football and the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you have any superstitions and if so, what are they?
What would be your "at bat" music selection?
Hm…Light em up maybe?
What is the best improvement upper level softball could make?
Well we’ve been having this very discussion. There are a number of things we have talked about. Chip Limits, Regions, and a better points system. Since we have to start someplace, let’s go with improving the points system. The current system makes chasing the MWS dependent on your budget and ability to get to the big tournaments. An example was made that a West Coast team could win a bunch of their events, not go the bigger East Coast events and still fail to quality for the MWS.
What is your favorite non-World tournament?
Snowball. It’s cold as hell most of the time, but it’s an open tournament. You have guys like Rainwater, Connell, Large, Whaley, Watson, and other Major guys playing. Unlimited bombs…it’s so cold the trash cans are littered with all the broken bats..
What is the best softball field you have played at and why?
BLD in Mansfield. The turf infield rocks.
Where is the best place to eat on the road after a game?
What is the funniest thing you have ever seen on a softball field?
Probably has to be when Big Country used Hulk Hands as batting gloves. He drilled out the centers, stuck a bat in them and went to bat. He almost knocked himself unconscious trying to run the bases with the bat still stuck in his hands…