MCCORDSVILLE — Out of baseball in 2010 following a good but not eye-popping high school career, Alex Moore seemed destined to put his competitive athletic career behind him and study his way through college en route to a “real world” occupation.
Moore, however, decided to change his destiny. The remarkable journey of the 2009 Mt. Vernon graduate was punctuated Saturday when he was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 28th round of the MLB Draft.
The six-foot-4 right-hander landed in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday, in preparation for summer rookie ball for the Brewers, to the surprise of a few of Moore’s friends and acquaintances.
“I even got some texts and phone calls when I told people I got drafted, and they thought I was joking,” said Moore, on the heels of his junior season at Lee University, a NAIA school in Tennessee.
Moore’s followers could be forgiven for their shock.
As a high school junior, Moore was an ace pitcher for the Marauders, but he didn’t make the all-conference team that season, finishing behind 21 other players in voting by coaches.
Moore was all-conference and all-county as a senior, capping a 2009 campaign with a 5-2 record and 2.85 ERA on the mound and a .295 batting average with 19 RBIs.
“The most memorable moment was when he pitched a perfect game against Shelbyville in a conference game,” said Mike Gibson, the Mt. Vernon head coach during Moore’s prep career. “It was a five-inning game, and he only threw like 60 pitches or some incredible number like that.
“He was that kind of dominating pitcher, at times.”
Still, with velocity topping out in the mid-80s, Moore didn’t attract interest from major colleges or pro scouts.
Gibson, seemingly like many others, admitted being caught off guard when he got word that his former pitcher was drafted over the weekend. Moore is believed to be the first Mt. Vernon graduate ever selected in the MLB draft.
“Obviously, he must have really worked hard to get to that level,” the former MV skipper said. “And I haven’t talked to him in a while, but I think there was probably a maturity level required to get to where he is now.”
The turning point for Moore, 22, came toward the end of his freshman year of college at IUPUI. He wasn’t playing baseball for the Jaguars, and the year away from the game ultimately served him well.
“I kind of got to a point where I had to reassess things,” he said. “I really wanted to make sure I had a good foundation, not only with baseball, but with my life, too.
“And so I rededicated myself physically, mentally, morally and all that other stuff. I wanted to make sure everything I did every day was going towards the goal of fulfilling my dream (of playing professional baseball), and in the process, helping others.”
Moore soon transferred to Cleveland State Community College in southeast Tennessee, where he returned to the baseball field. A solid year at Cleveland State earned Moore a spot at Lee, also in southeast Tennessee.
New to the team, Moore saw limited game action at Lee in 2012. He did his most important work in practice.
“When I got to Lee last year, the coaches basically told me they wanted me to be a project,” said Moore, who noted that he had long battled tendonitis in his throwing arm. “They wanted to do a total overhaul of my mechanics, so we just scrapped everything. We started to use the lower half of my body more, so I wasn’t just using my arm.
“Very quickly, my velocity went up, my control went up. I pretty much scrapped the four-seam fastball and went to a sinking two-seamer, so that’s getting me a lot of soft contact. The slider’s still the same, it’s just about 8 miles an hour harder.”
Moore said his arm feels as good as ever, and his velocity is approaching the mid-90s. Pitching out of the bullpen this season for the Flames (51-12), Moore had a 3.80 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. Opponents hit only .197 against Moore.
On Lee’s website, head coach Mark Brew termed Moore “by far the player that has improved the most since last season.” He continued, “He has always had a great arm, but had yet to put it together on the field.
“His velocity and breaking ball are what attracted many scouts, and he is one of the most athletic pitchers on staff.”
Moore was one of a program-record five Lee players drafted over the weekend, and one of nine in the past two years. Clearly, Brew and his staff have a handle on developing players.
In addition to the benefit of a heady coaching staff, Moore said he’s also been aided in his development by Lee’s faith-based curriculum.
“Growing as a player and growing as a person, it has all worked out,” Moore said. “I feel like I’m in a very good position in my life right now. And I feel like I’ve got even more room to grow physically, mentally and spiritually.
“It’s going to be an interesting next few years. I’m very excited that I get to keep playing baseball and see where this is going to go.”
The Brewers’ first game in the Arizona Rookie League is next Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers.