ATHENS – A few years ago, four prospects in the Boston Red Sox system shared a house: Mookie Betts, Blake Swihart and Henry Owens are all now in the majors. Then there’s Nick Moore, who is now living out a much different dream.
While his three ex-roommates all rocketed up the show, Moore never got past Single-A and was released in April. Four months later he finds himself trying to cut it in another big show: He’s a walk-on linebacker for the Georgia football team.
He turns 23 in December, an age when most everyone else has already or is about to enter the real world. Moore, meanwhile, is settling in for four years of college.
“I’m going backwards,” Moore said, smiling. “I did the real world when I was 18, and now I get a chance to kind of take a step back and be a kid again. I don’t really have to worry about real life.”
The Red Sox were getting routed on Wednesday afternoon when Moore came up for interviews.
“It’s tough to see them losing. But it’s really cool to watch them play,” Moore said, referring to his ex-roommates.
Moore’s path to the majors was always going to be a tough one. He was a 30th-round pick out of Brookwood High School in 2011, and wouldn’t have signed if the Red Sox hadn’t offered him a good deal: Money, plus a promise that they would eventually pay for his college attendance.
So anytime Moore contributes for Georgia over the next four years, it comes courtesy of the Boston Red Sox.
The unique thing about Moore, and the reason he’s an intriguing prospect, is he comes to Georgia more mature and also in good shape, having been a pro athlete the past four years. He was an outfielder and corner infielder. It’s not football, but it’s still professional athletics.
“He’s a pro,” Georgia inside linebacker Jake Ganus said. “He knows what it takes. Pro baseball, he tells all sorts of stories about what they had to do. I mean they were on the road 24-7, they were working out, they were having meetings, they were stretching. All this stuff I had no idea baseball players even did.
“So I think this camp stuff for him is probably nothing, because it’s how he lived for five years.”
So how did Moore end up here?
“I got cut April 3, 2015,” Moore said, spelling it out in a way that made a reporter apologize, thinking it offensive to ask. “No, it’s all right. It is what it is. I did everything I could and it didn’t work out. It’s fine.”
The Red Sox released him on a Friday. Moore was driving home from Fort Myers, the spring training facility, and was three hours north when he got a call from a Mississippi State coach. Moore’s father had already called his high school coach, who had started making calls himself. Alabama, Georgia and Georgia Tech also called.
None of the big schools were offering scholarships, but at that time a year a player in good athletic shape whose scholarship could be paid by someone else for four years was a hot commodity.
Moore said he visited all of the above four schools, and decided on Georgia, based on large part his first meeting with inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler. The chance to play under Mark Richt and Jeremy Pruitt sold him as well, as did playing for his boyhood team.
“Coach Pruitt’s one of the best coaches in baseball – football, sorry,” Moore said, making the quick correction. “Being a Georgia fan growing up, listening to Larry Munson, I felt like there’s no other place on the planet I’d rather be than right down the house.”
This situation isn’t new at Georgia:
Josh Murray was a 24-year-old former baseball player when he walked on to Georgia’s team in 2008. But Moore doesn’t have a hot-shot quarterback for a younger brother.
Georgia offered Moore with the idea that he could eventually contribute, even at a crowded inside linebacker position, or at least on special teams.
“The guy’s got a chance to develop,” Ekeler said. “He played safety in high school, and really, really come on at linebacker so far. It’ll be a lot of fun to see how he develops.”
While he played safety in high school, Moore has grown to 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, and he had scholarship offers out of high school to play inside linebacker. He signed with Kennesaw State and had the option to go to Air Force. But he opted for baseball.
“Obviously things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to, but I think I’m in the right place,” Moore said. “I think this is the place I’m supposed to be. I’m a firm believer that God is going to be put me where I’m supposed to be, and I’m excited. On to the next stage in life.”