The Times West Virginian

Prep Sports

July 12, 2014

One step closer to dream, Kesling signs with Garrett

FAIRMONT — Getting where you want to be is a process. Fairmont Senior’s Johnny Kesling knows that.

For Kesling, the next step in reaching the ranks of Division I baseball is to fine tune his skills.

Kesling took that step Friday, signing to play baseball with Garrett County Community College, a junior college in Maryland.

“Garrett came and talked to me after my sophomore year, and it was always an option open for me,” Kesling said. “With it being a junior college, it’s a good position for me to move in and get good playing time and start right away and put my hours in to possibly move to the next level.”

The second-team All-State selection, who finished his senior season with a .434 batting average, five home runs and 34 RBIs, was offered a chance to walk on to West Virginia University to play baseball, but Kesling wants to see the field during his freshman season in hopes of continuing his baseball career without having to take any time off.

“I was keeping my options all open, but junior college became the thing because of the fact that I’ve always wanted to go Division I. It’s been my dream,” Kesling admitted. “I felt that junior college was the best route to put me in that position to do that after two years.”

At Garrett, Kesling will likely be inserted into the lineup during his first season at the hot corner, playing third base.

A first baseman this past season, Kesling said the two positions are very similar and he should have no problem going over to third, a position he played his sophomore season at Fairmont Senior.

“I’ve played there before,” Kesling said. “I’ve been working on it, taking ground balls there, getting used to it all, getting used to the glove — the glove’s a little bit smaller than that first baseman’s glove. That’s mainly the big thing to get used to. Ground balls are going to be the same. I just need to work on the little things to make sure I’m ready when I move in.”

Over his four years as a Polar Bear, Kesling was on very successful teams, reaching the state tournament in each season of his high school career.

Going to Garrett will be no different in terms of success.

The Lakers boast one of the top Division II teams in the NJCAA, having sent 42 players on to sign professional contracts — two of which have played in the major leagues, having nine NJCAA All-Americans and two Rawlings Big Stick award winners, among other things, according to the team’s website.

“I developed pretty well underneath the Fairmont Senior program, and I think that Garrett County will only take that further,” Kesling said. “They can make me a better player. I feel there’s good coaches up there. They’ve made good players. I think it’ll be a good fit.”

The decision to attend Garrett, Kesling said, will allow him time to work on his skills while pursuing a Division I school, having hopes to play at a school like WVU, Marshall or Maryland.

Also a solid student, Kesling plans to major in elementary education while at Garrett, then move into biology upon transferring to a bigger school.

Choosing elementary education, Kesling said, will give him the time he needs to focus on baseball while learning skills that will ready him for working with kids, something he ultimately hopes to do as a physical therapist if the baseball route doesn’t work out.

“Elementary education is a good step to move into for baseball, getting everything under my belt. And it’ll be a good fit,” Kesling said of his choice. “If baseball doesn’t work out, I’ll go to a school like WVU with my other scholarships and focus on only school and move into physical therapy.”

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow him on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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