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Tournaments | Story | 6/25/2019

St. Thomas to the Showdown

Jack Nelson     
Photo: Tristan Moore (Perfect Game)

DUNWOODY, Ga. – The U.S. Virgin Islands own the title of  “America’s Caribbean Paradise.” Historically, well-to-do families have flocked there for relaxation on the sandy beaches and experience the vibrant culture. So when you think of St. Thomas or St. John, you probably don’t think of baseball. Tristan Moore is trying to change that, as the St. Thomas native has traveled to Georgia this week to compete with Team Elite Premier in the Perfect Game 18u Summer Showdown.

The rich history of baseball in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico is well documented. And any regular viewer of the Little League World Series knows that the small island of Curacao has an elite level of youth baseball, and has produced MLB talent in Andruw Jones and Jurickson Profar. The game is alive and thriving in the Caribbean and the Virgin Islands are no exception. The have been 14 big leaguers that have called the Virgin Islands home, and currently there is one active player in St. Thomas’s Jharel Cotton, who pitches for the Oakland A’s. That number is significant when taken in context that St. Thomas is a tiny island of just 40,000 people.

“Baseball is actually a pretty big sport back home,” said Moore. “People love playing and watching there. And growing up, the choice was either baseball or basketball. It was an easy choice, and I’ve been playing ever since.”

Moore’s passion for the game is evident. While most of his teammates from the Georgia-based Team Elite commuted to Brooke Run Park from around the Atlanta area, Moore trekked 1,600 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to get his chance at playing some of the top teams in the Southeast. It’s an opportunity he relishes and does not take for granted.

“There aren’t a lot of baseball facilities down there,” said Moore. “I have to do a lot of practicing on my own. There also aren’t very many games, so I’ve had to travel to play as much as I would like to. But it’s been great. This competition is excellent, and I’ve been forced to adapt to better pitching and playing every day. It’s everything I could as for.”

Moore showed no signs of jet lag on Tuesday, as he was dominant in his four inning start against the Ninth Inning Royals 17u. Allowing just one run, Moore struck out seven and walking just one. The 6-foot-1 lefty used his mid-80s fastball to get ahead of hitters, and then flashed his breaking ball to put them away. Equally as impressive was his control of runners on the base paths and the mound presence he showed when in a slight jam in the third inning. With guys on second and third with no outs, Moore buckled down and got two strikeouts and a pop up to end the threat.

Moore pitches with a cerebral, efficient delivery. But his journey as a player has been anything but smooth. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged the Caribbean. And although that was almost two years ago, the devastation that the category five storm left in its wake remains. All throughout the Red Sox 2018 season and World Series run, manager and native Puerto Rican, Alex Cora spearheaded a baseball wide relief effort to help those still in need. Even today, residents of those islands still feel the effects of Maria in everyday life. But the experience of having everything taken away drives Moore to make the most of the gifts he has been given.

“There’s not much baseball going on right now because of what the storms did,” said Moore. “A lot of people actually had to move away. Luckily, one of my old coaches had a connection with Team Elite so he kind of helped me out to get here. I’m lucky I still get to play, and especially at such a high level. ”

A lot of times what separates good players from becoming truly great is about maturity. Success at high levels is about who is going to get caught up in distractions and those that stay the course. Considering all he’s been through with the storm and the sheer sacrifice it requires to travel to Georgia to play, Team Elite Coach Terry McClure believes Moore has what it takes to accomplish his dreams.

“It’s a major commitment that we really appreciate. Honestly, I can’t even imagine it,” said McClure. “Today he was very impressive, just pounding the zone and getting swings and misses. He has a great body and projectable frame, but he also has a good head on his shoulders. The mental side is over half the battle, and he already has that. I think the sky is the limit.”

Moore is ranked as a top 1000 overall player in Perfect Game’s high school class of 2020. While he has not made a college commitment yet, the No. 1 player in the Virgin Islands is sure to get plenty of looks as he continues his summer schedule with Team Elite. A two-way prospect, Moore is an interesting athlete with a variety of skills on a baseball field. And like so many before him, he is doing all he can to reach the ultimate stage.

“I want play professional baseball,” said Moore. “As a hitter or a pitcher, I love both equally. I just want a chance.”

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