After high school, Kevin Sibley turned from baseball to logistics
By Hilary Reeves
Kevin Sibley was born in West Seattle, a working-class enclave on the city’s west side. His father was a military electrician turned shipbuilder; his mother worked for Boeing. Sibley played baseball.
“I always wanted to play pro ball,” he said. “As a kid, that’s what you want to do.”
He played in local leagues as a catcher, ultimately catching the attention of college scouts by the time he was in high school. When he was a sophomore, his father passed away.
“Both my parents were really supportive of my brother and me,” he said. “I was 15 when my dad passed away from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It kind of threw a wrench into things.”
While Sibley didn’t necessarily enjoy playing ball for school teams, he joined the ranks of Kennedy High School baseball his junior year. That season, a nasty collision at the plate resulted in a knee injury that kept him sidelined for 10 months.
“I took a good year off, then went back to playing (in a local league), but I just sort of fell through the widgets.”
Meanwhile, Sibley had been working since he was 14 at a local restaurant.
“You could get your health card at 14-and-a-half back then,” he laughed. “When I was 14, I peeled potatoes. When I turned 15, I started washing dishes. When I turned 16, I became a short-order cook. I stayed on at the restaurant until I was 19.”
Sibley graduated from Kennedy, a local Catholic high school, in 1987 and went on to attend classes at community college. Working as a night cook, he contemplated the military, but decided against it. He had a buddy working in transportation, making good money, and Sibley wanted in.
“I decided I didn’t want to live behind a grill,” he laughed. “I had friends working at Viking Freight, and I landed a job there when I was 19.”
Sibley started on the docks, loading and unloading trucks.
“It was so different from restaurant work,” he said. “Honestly, I really enjoyed freight handling and our community of blue-collar workers. I definitely wasn’t eyeballing some sort of white-collar job. It was the teamwork thing that really appealed to me. It reminded me of being a ballplayer.”
Sibley said the leadership, too, was hands-on.
“Someone told me early on, ‘you can’t go wrong in this field – people will always need their stuff moved from one place to another,’” he laughed.
Sibley spent three years at Viking before the company was bought out and the facility moved an hour away. Opting out of a commute, he signed on with Viking client LSI (Label Services Incorporated) – a company that predominately labeled and shipped canned fish – in 1993.
“There was times we had almost a million square feet of stuff going on,” he said. “I managed a crew of 70. It was still very much a shipping environment. There was a lot of import-export paperwork that needed to be right – and this was before e-mail.”
But by 2003, he said the company wasn’t operating the way they used to. By 2005, he knew he wanted out.
“We’d been bought out, and there was a new board, “ he said. “I could tell things were going downhill.”
Sibley was familiar with Alaska shipping company Carlile – he used to drive to the company’s nearby offices in Federal Way and pick up canned salmon brought from Alaska via Carlile’s Arctic Express Service, and take them back to be labeled.
“I got ahold of Carlile and put my feelers out,” he said. “He definitely wanted to make a lateral move.”
Sibley joined Carlile’s Alaska logistics company in 2006 running the company’s off-site warehouse. After big-box retail shipping slowed, the warehouse was dubbed obsolete, and Sibley transitioned into something of a project manager because of his experience with billing.
“That was just about the time that Saltchuk purchased Carlile,” he said, “but I was retained as Operations Manager.”
After 12 years with Carlile, Sibley said two projects stand out: the low-sulfur diesel project facilitated by Conoco Phillips on the North Slope, and the Norton Sound Regional Hospital project in Nome.
“I like to go back and forth (to Alaska) several times a year,” he said.
On a personal level, Sibley lives with his girlfriend and his 14-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.
“The things that make me most proud are my kid, and sticking out my roles and putting myself into every job position I’ve ever had,” he said.
A prolific drummer from his early years (“my mom played piano, but I didn’t want to play piano, I wanted to play drums”), Sibley plays into the AC/DC cover band “Soul Stripper.”
“I’ve worked hard since I was 14,” Sibley concluded. “When my daughter is done with college, my significant other and I wan to retire south to Arizona where it’s warm and dry.”
Sibley said that while he’s earned his way up the ladder of success and is proud of the career he’s built, he can’t help but think about baseball.
“My only real regret is thinking that if I would have rehabbed correctly – really taken the time and been focused on coming back – I could have made a run at the majors,” he said. “But I’m proud to have been involved in something like the transition after Saltchuk’s purchase of Carlile. We diversified, and it wasn’t always easy here, but I’ve kept all my direct reports. Every single one. It’s been tough, but I really take pride in keeping my group together through adversity. As long as you keep communication open, and the trust factor there – it’s a really big deal to me.”