Cibrario drinks from fountain of youth

July 11, 2012

Anyone who has ever played the game of baseball knows that, sooner or later, their skills will begin to decline, and they’ll no longer be able to perform at the level they once did.

Wisconsin State League

LIBERTYVILLE — Anyone who has ever played the game of baseball knows that, sooner or later, their skills will begin to decline, and they’ll no longer be able to perform at the level they once did.

For some, that time comes in their early to mid-20s. For others, that day arrives when they are 30, 35 or even 40 years old.

It’s a message someone apparently forgot to share with 47-year-old Libertyville resident Mark Cibrario.

For the past 29 years, Cibrario has played semipro baseball in southeastern Wisconsin, among other places. Not only is he entering his 26th season with the Kenosha Kings — who play their home games at historic Simmons Field on Sheridan Road — but he continues to play at such a high level, it might as well be a symbolic slap in the face to Father Time himself.

As the Kings’ third baseman, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound Cibrario posted a .368 batting average in 2011, led the team with a .485 on-base percentage, and is a two-time Wisconsin State League Most Valuable Player (2007 and ’10). He’s showing no signs of slowing down, either. In 2012, he’s posted a .327 average, .470 on-base percentage and .858 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 20 games.

Cibrario has also reached base safely in 18 of those contests, which includes an active streak of 15 games. Those numbers are a huge part of the reason the Kings hold a 30-4 overall record.

“I think his dedication to the game and his attention to detail are the two biggest things he brings every time he plays,” said Kings catcher/infielder Billy Johnson, who played at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and is in his ninth season with the club. “Just his sheer knowledge of the game is a huge asset. Whether it’s the placement of fielders in certain situations, or knowing when we have to hit to the right side to get a runner over, Mark is like having another manager on the field.”

When it comes to his longevity, it doesn’t hurt that Cibrario also owns a business called, The Trainers Club, in Northbrook. That’s where he helps keep others — including some pro athletes — in shape, and is described on the Kings’ website as, “one of the nation’s leading authorities on functional movement training and lifting technique.”

Cibrario also was named one of the top 55 trainers in the country by the AAPT (American Association of Personal Trainers), and he was even honored as one of America’s best 100 trainers by Men’s Health Magazine in 2004 and ’05.

“(Being in shape) really is the key reason I’ve been able to play so long at this level,” said Cibrario. “When I refer to myself as a personal trainer/corrective exercise specialist, I’m also a movement enhancement specialist. Which means I have a very strong understanding of the body and its systems. So for me to continue to succeed at my age, my speed and my power work — which includes my fast-twitch movements — have to continue to be maintained all year long. That’s the key.

“Some guys, when that six month season ends, they just do cardio or lift some weights to stay in shape. But I have to do specific speed training, power training … I dead lift, I speed-dead lift, I snatch, I clean — I do explosive things. I do medicine-ball work like crazy. I do sprint work all year round. Everything I mentioned is key to making sure my system can continue to react the way it does, which ensures I’m able to compete with some of these guys who are half my age.”

Those reflexes were on full display in the second game of the Kings’ doubleheader against the visiting Manitowoc Bandits on July 7. In a scoreless game, in the top of the seventh inning, the Bandits’ leadoff hitter scorched a sinking liner to Cibrario at third. He reacted with cat-like precision and speed, backhanding the ball — which seemed to be a sure hit — and easily throwing the batter out at first.

In the bottom of the same frame, Cibrario led off by belting a two-strike slider to center field for a single. He then stole second, and scored on a walk-off hit by outfielder Paul Pulera, a graduate of UW-Parkside. The end result was a two-game sweep — 10-0 and 1-0. Afterward, Cibrario was one of the last players to leave the field.

“It really comes down to a love of the game,” Cibrario said. “I keep working as hard as I can to compete at this high of a level, and that’s the bottom line — I love this game, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep playing baseball for as long as I possibly can.”

The Kenosha Kings simultaneously play in two different semipro leagues — the Wisconsin State League and the Langsdorf League — both mostly comprised of local athletes who played baseball at the college level or beyond.

The Kings are the five-time defending Langsdorf League champions. The last time they won the WSL title, however, was in 2006.

“That’s something we hope to change real soon,” Cibrario said. “Our main nemesis in that league (WSL) is the Lombard Orioles, and they seem to be a perennial obstacle for us year after year.”

The Kings host the Orioles at Simmons Field, in a key doubleheader on Saturday. The first game starts at 3:30 p.m. The Kings play yet another doubleheader, in Lombard, beginning at 1 p.m. the following day.

Story by: Tim Froehlig, contributor to Libertyville Review
Photos by: Michael Schmidt, Sun-Times Media

The Wisconsin State League is one of the premier semi-professional/amateur baseball leagues in the mid-west. In operation since 1970, the Wisconsin State League is a highly competitive league that features many of the midwest's top current and former collegiate athletes, as well as many former professional baseball players. Keep up to date on everything happening in the Wisconsin State League by following the league online on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. | #WSL