Jacksonville pitcher’s abilities ‘stem from Jesus’

By Bill Sorrell
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

Mike Kickham, a starting pitcher for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, says he’s living his professional career to be a menace to Southern League hitters. And his 87- to 90-mph range has been effective.

“I put them on the defense early, attacking the zone. I like throwing the cutter. It’s a tough pitch to hit when you execute it,” said Kickham, who also has a slider, change-up and curveball in his arsenal. “I have confidence with the baseball and the ability to move it around.”

He has also confidence somewhere else.

“One thing that I have learned is put my confidence in God first,” Kickham said. “That is what enabled me to have confidence in my abilities — He has blessed me with talents and abilities.”

Having God as his source of focus allows Kickham to do his best, he said.

It all “stems from having a relationship with Jesus, putting it first priority and daily strengthening it,” he said. “That is my foundation.”

From Springfield, Missouri, Kickham was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth round in 2010 from Missouri State University in Springfield. After playing in the minors, he made his major league debut May 26, 2013, in San Francisco and moved around in the years that followed before landing in Jacksonville for now.

Of being in the big leagues, Kickham said, “It’s tough to beat. That is something that I will never forget. It was awesome playing in front of a stadium full of people at that level, achieving a childhood dream. It’s pretty surreal.”

Thanking God

When he got there, he said he thanked God and did his best.

“It didn’t always go well. It’s tough to get there. It’s one thing to get there. It’s another thing to stay,” said Kickham, who is grateful for another opportunity to execute his talents and compete, although it is not in the majors.

“Not everyone is fortunate enough to play. Here I am at 28. Hopefully there are many more years to come,” he said. “It’s a grind. It’s fun. I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.”

The progress will take care of itself, he said — he is simply focusing on doing his best and being a good influence on his teammates. Kickham said he wants to conduct himself “in a certain way based on my faith.”

He said he hopes God will leave him where he is to be a tool to spread His Word.

Kickham became a Christian as a young man through the influence of his parents, Kevin and Dana Kickham.

“My dad was a big influence,” Mike Kickham said. “He is a very strong man of God. He set a great example, not only for me but for my brother and two sisters. If I have any questions, he is a great resource that I can go to.”

But Mike Kickham was in his 20s before his faith became personal.

“Faith has always been in my life but maybe not where it needed to be,” he said.

A turning point came in 2015, which he described as a “pretty tough” year, personally and professionally. He had lost confidence in himself.

“That was a catalyst to reprioritize some things in my life and really put faith at the forefront of my personal life, to be the No. 1 priority in my life,” he said. “I had to refigure some things out. I think everything happens for a reason. That was a way for God to get my attention.”

For Mike Kickham, staying strong in his faith includes reading the Bible, spending time with other believers who hold him accountable and listening to podcasts and sermons. “Getting into God’s Word every day is huge and praying throughout the day strengthens me,” he said.

Jacksonville manager Randy Ready called Mike Kickham “a solid guy with a great foundation.”

“He is a refreshing young man to be around,” Ready said. “He is a professional on and off the field. He sets a great example for the rest of the club. [His faith] is instrumental in his life and gives him the foundation to have the success he has had.”

In Jesus, Mike Kickham has found “first and foremost, a Savior, forgiver of sins, a foundation.”

“People come and go out of your life, but Jesus will never let you down,” he said. “You can always rely on Him. We all need Him.”