By: Giselle Cancio
Horizon High School baseball coach Eric Kibler has seen hundreds of players walk onto his field since starting the program in 1981.
And even though it has been 15 years since Tuffy Gosewisch put on a Huskies baseball jersey, the catcher said Kibler has been one of the most influential people in his career.
“He’s just a good human being. We’ve always had a good relationship,” Gosewisch said. “I have a lot of respect for him, so I like going back and talking to him and seeing the team when I can.”
Gosewisch reflected on the importance of his high school career before a recent spring training workout with the Diamondbacks.
Kibler also coached Tuffy’s older brother, Ian, so their relationship dates back to 1989.
“He walked through those gates right there [at Horizon High School] as a little 6-year-old,” Kibler said. “I’ve known Tuffy forever, and even at 6, you could tell he loved the game, was very passionate, worked really hard.”
He went on to play baseball for Arizona State (2002-2005), leading the Sun Devils to the College World Series his senior year.
Like most high school and college baseball players, Gosewisch envisioned himself playing in the major leagues.
He was drafted by the Phillies in 2005 and spent eight years in their minor league system before returning to the Valley to sign with the Diamondbacks in 2013.
A dream now a decade in the making came true at the start of last season when the catcher made his first opening day roster with the team he grew up watching.
But only two months into his full-time role as the Diamondbacks’ catcher, he tore the ACL in his left knee, sidelining him for the rest of the year.
With spring training now underway for the 2016 season, Gosewisch said he’s fully recovered and ready to get back behind the plate.
“It’s been special to watch him,” Kilber said. “I’m so glad a hometown kid gets to play for his hometown team. Ii doesn’t happen very often, so I’m really happy for him.”
Tuffy credits his success to his long-time coach.
“I think he set the foundation for my baseball career along with my parents,” Gosewisch said. “He’s just been a huge influence on so many high school kids careers (because) a lot of guys have gone on to play college baseball and a good amount have gone on to play professional baseball and I think he was a big part of that.”
His connection with Kibler and Horizon baseball will live on as the school announced they will honor the Diamondbacks catcher by retiring his jersey number this season.
Junior varsity coach Jerry Stone remembers when Gosewisch was on the Huskies field.
“He was such a great competitor and the ultimate practice player,” Stone said. “He never took a day off and was just someone so nice to be around.”
An even more unique part of the retirement is that Tuffy will join Ian on the right field wall. They are the first brothers to share the honor.
“That’s a special thing for us,” Kibler said. “It’s hard to get your number retired here. But he’s always worked hard and had the right perspective in the game.”
With his high school past and Kibler in mind, the catcher is now focused on building a bond with each of the Diamondbacks’ pitchers.
After all, he knows just how much a great relationship can impact the game.