Klaiber klobbers adversity to win NE-10 Player of Year
GOFFSTOWN, NH — Looking at the statistics, it was easy to award Bre Klaiber the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year in the Northeast Division.
But when tracing her college career the past four seasons, she would have been the landslide winner of the “Outstanding Character and Determination Award” if there was such an honor.
The Ironton native began her career at Long Island University-Post where she earned East Coast Conference Rookie of the Year honors.
But LIU-Post dropped its program after her freshman season and she transferred to St. Anselm
where she put together one of the best seasons in the history of the Hawks’ program.
Klaiber hit a league-leading .456 with a .549 on-base percentage and racked up a .676 slugging percentage. She had 31 hits including nine for extra bases, with 19 runs batted in and 18 runs scored. She struck out just twice in 68 at-bats and was second in the league with 14 walks.
The biology major has been named twice to Northeast-10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
The Hawks advanced to the conference championship series for only the second time in program history. They will face Adelphia in the best-of-3 series on Friday for the conference championship.
Klaiber — who played at Ironton and Wheelersburg — was the Northeast-10 Freshman of the Year at LIU-Post as she made first team all-conference and the team went to the NCAA Division 2 tournament.
But it is Kaliber’s character that has enabled her to reach this point in her career. It is her grit, determination, unyielding will and toughness that has kept her career alive in the face of continued adversity.
Klaiber has had two surgeries on her right knee. She said after her freshman season “I knew I was going to have one. My trainer told me I was going to have it.”
The initial diagnosis by the trainers thought Klaiber had torn her labrum. However, an MRI after the season found she it was her bicep tendon.
“Chronic scaring in a 20-year-old kid is not normal, so they decided to go in and do a scope. When they went in on the scope it didn’t look terrible. But the bicep tendon is kind of tricky because you can only see part of it and then part of it runs until you cut it and pull it out,” said Klaiber.
“So, they decided to leave it and see how physical therapy went. So, they closed it up and tried a PT so that way I could play fall ball if that worked out. I went through two months of PT and my pain is worse than when it started.”
Doctors went back into her arm and found her bicep completely inflamed from where she tore it in half and caused it to become unstable and caused her labrum to tear as well as her rotator cuff.
“It was a mess,” said Klaiber.
The surgery proved successful and Klaiber was soon back throwing the softball.
While it seemed as though so many setbacks might be the end of her career, Klaiber said that getting the news after the first surgery that things didn’t seem so bad left her wondering if any doubt floating around was all just in her head.
“I thought ‘is the pain there or am I just being a baby?’”
The second surgery not only cleaned things up but gave her some relief and a feeling of confidence that she could resume her career.
However, the type of surgery she had was generally followed by a six-month recovering period which didn’t fit into her timetable to play again.
“I had about four months until I got to play, so it was pretty rushed. There were moments when I thought I can’t do this in time,” said Klaiber.
But then October came and there was the announcement that the LIU-Post was cutting softball from its budget. This caused more anxiety for Klaiber.
“Who wants a player coming off shoulder surgery?” she asked herself.
The thoughts of whether fate was telling her that she should quit or was it worth it bounced around inside her head.
LIU-Post offered her the opportunity to remain at the school and finish her education and quit playing.
But Bre Klaiber is not wired that way.
“I knew if I did that I would regret it the rest of my life,” said Klaiber. “The moment came when I had to kick it in gear and prove I deserved to be here and let’s go out and do it.”
And she did.
Klaiber began to contact other programs in the Northeast-10 Conference including St. Anselm.
“After my freshman year, it was really funny. We showed up to play them and we absolutely wanted to hate them,” said Klaiber. “We came on a mission. We came to beat them. We got here and they were the most respectful college team I’ve ever played in my life and you could not hate them.”
Being on the open market, Klaiber said “being respectful is a really big part of the game I play. I don’t come to embarrass somebody. I come to play my game. And if we win, we win. That’s what I came here to do. I just want to do my part to help the team. But I draw the line at being disrespectful when you’re here to do the thing you love.”
Klaiber said St. Anselm coach Jill Gagnon did an excellent job and had the mentality of the type of coach for whom she wanted to play. With all those factors, St. Anselm was one of the first programs she emailed.
And Kaliber admitted that there was a key aspect of her game that worked in her favor.
“It helps when you’re good,” she said with a laugh. “They were runners-up to the national championship so they were one of the first schools I contacted and it worked out. They brought me here and have taken me in and it’s like a family and I think I’ve really found a home.”
Finding a new place to play was a huge step in the positive direction, but then came an ankle injury as Klaiber had to learn about Murphy’s Law the hard way.
“COVID caused a lot of problems. When you don’t get to do a lot of athletic motion, you’re going to get those icky injuries that pop up. We were so excited. It was the first day of a full team practice. I go out there and I go to take a backhand and I roll my ankle on the lip of the grass,” said Klaiber.
The next day her ankle blew up with swelling and turned black and blue. The trainers put her in a boot and on crutches because she was unable to walk.
An X-ray was negative as far as anything broken but after a couple of weeks she was still unable to walk and it was back to the MRI machine.
“We get the MRI and it looks like everything is partially torn,” said Klaiber. “Nothing was completely ruptured, so that was good.”
The trainers left her in the boot and she would be heading home in about a week for break. She decided to wait until she returned to Ironton to begin her therapy because she would have to restart.
However, the extended time in the boot left her ankle locked in one place and could not move her foot an inch due to scarring.
Klaiber spent the next two months trying to get the ankle moving and back to normal. The ankle didn’t respond and she knew another surgery was imminent.
After the surgery, she was faced with a five-week recovery period and then was back at it again.
Enlisting the help of her father Bill, a former standout pitcher and hitter for Ironton High School and West Virginia State, Klaiber began preparing to regain her playing form and resume her assault on softball.
“I don’t like to think of it as a bad memory. I like to think everything happens for a reason and it really just put me into gear to make sure I got to this point,” said Klaiber.
“I’ll never forget over the summer when COVID happened and I didn’t get to play and I was absolutely devastated, and I looked at my dad and said, ‘Dad, I’m hitting .400 next year.’ I said every single day we’re going to go outside and we’re going to hit and I’m hitting .400 next year.
“He was like, ‘Let’s have some realistic goals here, Bre. Maybe let’s talk about .350.’ I was like, ‘No dad, I’m going to hit .400.’”
When the conference announced the yearly awards and final statistics, Bill Klaiber called Bre and said, “I guess you’re right. But you were a little wrong. You hit .456.”
The news of being named the Player of the Year was more than welcomed, but she said it was never on her “to do” list.
“It was really disbelief. I really don’t care about the accolades. I care more about winning. Whenever my teammates came to congratulate me, I would trade it for a World Series any day. It’s nice to be recognized, but I came here to win and the job’s not done yet,” said Klaiber.
With the goal to win and get to the World Series, Klaiber is already planning to undertake a stringent workout program this summer.
“I am going to wear my dad out and he knows it,” said Klaiber. “We’ve already talked about it. We’ve already got the whole thing planned out. We’re going to go through the whole deal again. I can’t wait.”
The enthusiasm Klaiber shows is something you would expect from the Player of the Year.
The desire to work even harder is something you would expect from the “Outstanding Character and Determination Award” winner.
And both awards are well-deserved.