When I Was a Kid – Matt Moore
By Joel Poiley
Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore wasted no time letting opposing hitters know he was ready for the big leagues even though he was only 22-years-old.
On Sept. 22, 2011, Moore made his first start against the New York Yankees at historic Yankee Stadium. He wasn’t the least bit intimidated, striking out 11 batters and only giving up four hits and a walk in five scoreless innings.
To prove that was no fluke, Moore made his second career start in Game 1 of the 2011 American League Division Series against the hard-hitting Texas Rangers. All he did was shut them out on two hits in seven innings and strike out seven.
He continued his on-the-job training in 2012 and put it all together in 2013 with a 17-4 record and sparkling 3.29 ERA. The hard-throwing lefty struck out 143 batters in 150 innings as he improved his career record to 29-15.
In earning his first All-Star appearance in 2013, Moore became the first left-handed pitcher under the age of 23 to begin the season with eight wins since Babe Ruth did it in 1917. Now that’s good company.
Moore made the most of his All-Star opportunity, needing only nine pitches to toss a perfect inning in the American League’s 3-0 victory against the National League at Citi Field in New York.
Just a couple weeks into the 2014 campaign, Moore suffered an elbow injury which resulted in season-ending Tommy John surgery. The hope is he will return sometime in May.
Moore spoke to Baseball Youth about how he got interested in baseball, the thrill of pitching in an All-Star Game and how sports helped him make friends growing up.
Baseball Youth: What are some of your memories of playing the game when you were a kid?
Matt Moore: What I remember most is trying to figure out which position I was going to play. I was a catcher, I played first base, I was a pitcher. I moved around quite a bit.
BY: Did you play league ball, travel ball, etc.
MM: I played Little League until about 12, then I got onto a travel team that played throughout the year.
BY: Did you always pitch?
MM: I was about 12 when I started pitching more because my velocity was there.
BY: Who did you follow growing up? Who were your favorite players to watch?
MM: I liked watching hitters more than pitchers because I liked to hit. I follow pitchers more now, but back then it was hitters.
BY: Who were your role models when it came to baseball and furthering your career?
MM: I liked Fred McGriff. It’s really cool getting to talk to him around here [in Rays training camp because he’s from Tampa and played with the old Devil Rays].
BY: Did you play other sports? Should a kid specialize?
MM: We played soccer, basketball, football, lots of different sports. There’s no need to specialize until you begin to get better in one over the others. Enjoy them all.
BY: Your dad was in the Air Force, and you moved around a lot as a kid. Did sports help you meet other kids?
MM: I think being an athlete and playing lots of different sports helped with that transition to find a group of friends and fit in.
BY: What would you tell kids coming back from injuries?
MM: Be patient. Listen to your body. If something is sore for a long time usually that turns into an injury, so back off a little bit until you feel better. Don’t try to do too much too soon.
BY: What would you tell kids who get moved up to play against older kids?
MM: Don’t pay any attention to anyone else’s age. Part of what made a lot of these guys [his Rays teammates] better is they either had an older brother or they played up against older competition. I’m 24 pitching against 30-year-olds, so it doesn’t change. Just believe in your ability.
BY: At what age did you start throwing curveballs and other pitches besides fastballs?
MM: I was in eighth grade, so I was 13 or 14 when I started throwing a little wrinkle. It’s one of those things where you may argue with your coach because you want to throw a curveball, and they’ll keep telling you to give it some time. However, there are ways to get on the side of the ball without putting your elbow at too much risk. The big thing when you are a young kid is to learn to pitch on the inside part of the plate. If you can do that it’s a very hard adjustment for the hitter to make.
BY: What’s it like to be one of the torchbearers for the younger generation? Do you consider yourself a role model?
MM: When I go around to Little Leagues, and having a niece and nephew that play, it’s cool to have them look up to me. However, the best advice I can give kids is to play as much as possible and enjoy the game. The better you get, the easier it is to handle situations when things don’t go your way in a game.
At a Glance
Name: Matt Moore
Team: Tampa Bay Rays
Bats: Left Throws: Left
Position: Starting pitcher
Pitches: Four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, changeup and curveball
Height: 6’3” Weight: 200 lbs.
Born: June 18, 1989
Drafted: 8th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2007
Career Highlights: American League All-Star (2013)