College Baseball: Moore leaves Wolfpack for Catawba
By Mike London
THOMASVILLE ó Say, didn’t you used to be Wade Moore?
No one’s actually said that to the face of Moore, a 2006 West Rowan graduate who is built like Captain America, but he’s heard the whispers of doubters and the mumbled taunts of second-guessers.
Top to flop. Stud to dud. Over-rated. Over-hyped. Chose the wrong sport. Chose the wrong college.
When you’re only 21 and you were one of the best two-sport prep athletes in Rowan County history, the unkind remarks cut deep.
“It’s been a little upsetting at times, hearing that stuff,” Moore said as he prepared to play center field for the Forest City Owls in a Coastal Plain League game at Thomasville’s Finch Field. “Like, ‘Guess Wade can’t do it anymore. Guess Wade couldn’t play in the ACC.’
“It’s put a chip on my shoulder because that’s not the way it is. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Moore has left N.C. State’s baseball program after three puzzling seasons that included more pine-time than prime-time.
He’ll play his final season at Catawba. He’s looking forward to suiting up for coach Jim Gantt and playing alongside lifelong friends such as Brett Hatley and Zeb Link at Newman Park.
“When I decided to leave N.C. State, there was no other place I had in mind except Catawba,” Moore said. “Coach Gantt I respect as much as anyone I’ve ever met in baseball. There are guys on Catawba’s team I love playing with. I’m guaranteed only one more year of baseball, so I’ll take my chances at Catawba. If it is my last year, at least, I know I’ll have some fun.”
Moore wakes up every morning missing football. He was a record-shattering tailback, but he made the choice to pursue baseball. He’s sticking with it.
“When I left N.C. State I came straight to the Owls and had all kinds of stuff still in my bags,” Moore said. “There were some West football tapes in there, and one of the guys popped in our playoff game with Burns. They were like, ‘Whoa, Wade!’ ”
Moore rushed 23 times for 148 yards and two TDs in the 2005 Burns game. A pretty routine night. His senior year, he scored 32 touchdowns and even kicked a few PATs. He broke Rowan County records with 54 career TDs and 4,256 rushing yards, although he didn’t maintain ownership long. West’s K.P. Parks came along right behind him.
Moore got football offers. Coaches wanted to make him a safety. Others liked him as an outside linebacker. Still others recruited him as a receiver. No D-I schools saw him as the answer at tailback, the position he loved.
For a guy named after Hall of Fame third baseman Wade Boggs, that made a baseball career a reasonable alternative. He was never a .400 hitter at West, but he was so competitive and athletic he took over games with his arm and speed.
There was a Rowan County Legion game in which Moore’s boxscore line read 5-4-4-9. Two homers and nine RBIs in seven innings.
“I’m blessed with some God-given ability that helps me affect baseball games in a lot of ways,” Moore said.
In four varsity seasons at West, he scored 104 runs and knocked in 72. He hit 20 doubles, seven triples and 10 homers while stealing 54 bases. On the mound, he struck out 263 batters and had a record of 24-6.
Once ACC schools began recruiting Moore avidly to play center field, football went on a shelf in the closet.
“UNC offered me $1,800 more than N.C. State did, but I turned them down,” Moore said. “I thought N.C. State was the place for me.”
Moore wanted to make it happen in Raleigh. He didn’t.
His freshman year he started one game. His sophomore year he started two.
He started 23 games as a junior between hamstring injuries. He batted .238, but his on-base percentage was .385. He hit five homers, knocked in 18 runs and stole nine bases in 12 attempts. He committed one error.
“I’ll never say N.C. State was a mistake,” Moore said. “I grew as a person there. I met great friends there. I met a girl I hope to marry. Only the baseball side was an unfortunate situation. I’m not gonna slam anybody, but it’s been tough.”
Many expected Moore to transfer after two empty seasons, but he had other ideas. Players who had been in front of him had moved on. He expected to start in center. It wasn’t false hope. He won the job.
“When I hurt my hamstring this year, I was leading the team in hitting,” Moore said. “Since I was a kid I’ve prided myself on being in good shape, but this year I hurt both hamstrings. Just a little unlucky.”
As a pinch-hitter in early March, Moore performed an impression of Mickey Mantle, launching a pitch at Miami that cleared the wall in right-center, sailed over palm trees and finally landed on the third level of a parking deck.
“That was an exciting moment because of the atmosphere ó the whole place was rocking,” Moore said. “I just wish my parents (Dick and Linda) could have been there. Dad would’ve gotten a kick out of it.”
Moore has inconsistent but impressive power.
He’s a left-handed hitter with a chiseled 205-pound body. He ran a 6.47 60-yard dash at the 2008 CPL All-Star Game. That’s flying.
He’s patient enough to lead off and swipes second if he gets on. In a CPL game Wednesday, Moore singled, stole second, took third when the catcher’s throw went into the outfield, then sprinted home after the center fielder bobbled the ball. That was the only run of the game.
This month’s MLB draft marked the first time Moore’s been eligible to be picked since he left West. Three years ago, his selection in 2009 seemed automatic, only a question of which round and by whom.
It didn’t happen.
“On N.C. State’s Scout Day, there were 30 pro scouts there,” Moore said. “I hit and threw and did well in those two areas, but I couldn’t run with the hamstring. Speed is my best tool.”
He’s healthy and running with the Owls. On Thursday, he legged out a triple at Finch Field and produced his daily stolen base.
This is his third tour of the CPL. He can hit with a wood bat. He expects to be an all-star again.
If Moore can have a banner season at Catawba ó if he can stay healthy and put up numbers ó he could still get that shot at pro ball.
“Teams have told me they’ve been watching me since high school,” Moore said. “Scouts tell me I’ve got the tools not just to play some pro ball, but to make it to the majors.”
The former West phenom is loose and relaxed now, but there’s an invisible chip on his shoulder.
When the 2010 season arrives, he intends to prove he’s still Wade Moore.
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