Caleb Moore: Versatility was NCAA batting champion’s calling card

Joe Avento • Sep 18, 2019 at 9:04 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a five-part series on the 2019 class of the ETSU Athletics Hall of Fame that will be inducted during a ceremony Friday night at the Carnegie Hotel.

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Watching East Tennessee State baseball back in the early 2000s, you got the feeling if any player could pitch and catch at the same time, it would be Caleb Moore.

He did the next best thing, starring at both positions for the Bucs, just not at the same time.

Moore won the NCAA Division I batting title in 2004, hitting .455. He was also ETSU’s closer and an All-Southern Conference pick as a catcher and relief pitcher.

Moore will be part of a five-person class being inducted into the ETSU Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night. When he got the call informing him of his selection, it caught him off guard.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting it,” said Moore, who was the Southern Conference’s player of the year. “It’s a good feeling knowing that years of hard work are being recognized. The first thing I thought about was my teammates. Without them I’m not sure I could have pulled off a lot of the things I was able to.”

During his junior year, Moore was as tough an out as there was in college baseball. He was hitting close to .500 late in the season but really didn’t think about where he stood nationally.

“It was something I didn’t realize until one of my teammates said ‘You have to be leading the nation in hitting,’ ” he said. “It had never entered my mind. When the weekly rankings came out, I was close to the lead and I thought ‘Holy smoke. I really am.’ ”

Moore entered the SoCon tournament hitting .469 and he said he thought going 2 for 9 as the Bucs were swept from the tourney cost him the title.

“I thought I dropped myself right out of it,” he said. “But the guy right behind me did about the same thing in his conference tournament.”

Moore finished with a .455 batting average, beating out Brian Bixler of Eastern Michigan (.453) and Stephen Carter of Eastern Kentucky (.448). He also led the country with 31 doubles.

On the mound, Moore was nearly as effective. In 12 pitching appearances, he went 2-0 with six saves and led the team with a 3.60 ERA.

Against SoCon teams, those numbers were even better. His average was .472 and his ERA was 1.36.

It wasn’t unusual for him to catch eight innings, take off his shin guards and chest protector and pitch the final inning.

“I never really thought about it,” Moore said. “I was just doing what I was supposed to do. I always looked forward to having the ball in my hand in the ninth inning. I enjoyed having the pressure on me.

“I knew how to attack the hitter. Could I execute? That was another question. But I had a plan when I went in to pitch.”

That versatility came in handy after was drafted in the fourth round by the Minnesota Twins in 2005. In his second year in the minor leagues, the Twins decided he would move from catcher to pitcher.

“I was catching on Tuesday and I was pitching in a game on Saturday,” he said. “That’s how quick it happened.”

Coincidentally, when Moore made his first professional appearance, Johnson City native Will Little was umpiring behind the plate. Little is now one of the top-rated umpires in the major leagues.

An arm injury and Tommy John surgery led to Moore’s career coming to an end, but he wasn’t completely through. He spent some time catching in Australia and enjoyed his time there before deciding it was time to move on with his life.

He was Happy Valley’s head coach for four years before taking the job at Knox Catholic, where he is currently head coach.

“What I miss the most is those times with my teammates,” he said. “I miss the hard times when you had somebody to lean on and go through it together. That’s what really makes a team and really brought us together. Those guys are still like my brothers today.”

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