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Baseball: The game’s in the bloodlines for Slammers pitcher Sam Moore

Joliet Slammers relief pitcher Sam Moore. | Tim Tierney/For Sun-Times Media

Joliet Slammers relief pitcher Sam Moore. | Tim Tierney/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 23, 2014 6:19AM



Growing up the son of All-Star pitcher Mike Moore, who played for Seattle, Oakland and Detroit, young Sam Moore lived what many youngsters can only dream about.

“I was a little kid and hanging out with Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco and Rickey Henderson,’’ Sam Moore said. “That was just dad’s friends. Looking back on it it’s pretty cool, but at the time you don’t realize it.’’

Now, amid less glamorous surroundings in the Frontier League, 24-year-old Sam Moore is pursuing affiliated baseball as a reliever with the Joliet Slammers.

“I know people who have regrets looking back on their athletic careers,’’ he said. “I didn’t want that to be me.’’

Going into Monday’s series opener against Traverse City, Moore had the second-best ERA in Joliet’s bullpen. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Tempe, Arizona, native is 2-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 281/3 innings over 21 games.

Moore earned the win in Friday’s 6-5 come-from-behind victory over Windy City. He pitched a spotless ninth with a strikeout before the Slammers rallied with three runs to win in the bottom of the ninth.

“I’ve been impressed by what he’s done so far,’’ Joliet manager Jeff Isom said. “We’ve put him in some tough situations.’’

Moore faced pressure in the past as the son of a big league ballplayer. Mike Moore was a 1989 All-Star and won two World Series games that year for Oakland in its sweep of San Francisco.

“When you start playing the game, you hear other people whispering about it,’’ Moore said of his father’s 14-year career. “Then you kind of put that pressure on yourself.

“What I finally figured out was, ‘I’m my own man. No matter what I do, I’m never going to be my dad.’ He had a completely different skill set. I’ve just got to be the best I can be.’’

Playing on his dad’s team at Valley Christian High School in Chandler, Arizona, Sam was named the state’s Small School Player of the Year in 2008 with a 13-1 record, 1.60 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 70 innings.

From there, Moore redshirted two of his three years at Oral Roberts because of elbow surgery. Stints at Grand Canyon and Arizona Christian completed his college career in 2013.

“I finished college and kind of thought my baseball career was done,’’ Moore said. “My sister’s boss, she works at a physical therapy office, had a connection with a guy in independent ball.’’

That led to Moore playing last summer in Arizona with the Peoria Explorers of the Freedom League. He went from a middle innings troubleshooter to the team’s closer by the end of the season.

Isom spotted Moore in the offseason during invitation-only tryout camps held by the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners.

“I see this big, grizzly guy, looks like a lumberjack,’’ Isom said of the bearded Moore. “He threw pretty well. The ball was firm out of his hand, had good sink and run to it.’’

Isom took a chance on Moore because there was “something interesting’’ about him and “you can’t teach movement.’’

As for learning the game from his father, Moore said his dad “refined’’ his pitching, but didn’t try to make a duplicate.

“A lot of what I learned from him was what I call baseball IQ,’’ Moore said. “Calling pitches, the mental toughness side of the game.’’

Even with talent and tenacity, a major league career is a long shot. Moore said he’ll re-evaluate his situation at the end of the season and expects to play at least another year of independent baseball.

“You get one shot to be young and chase your dreams, so why not?’’ he said.



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