College | Story | 12/11/2019

Sooie! Moore now a Razorback

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Robert Moore (Perfect Game)

When he was much more of a youngster six to eight years ago, Robert Moore never really thought very long or very hard about playing college baseball. He was growing up in Leawood, Kan., where his day-to-day life revolved around Major League Baseball. Dayton Moore, Robert’s dad, is the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals, so that shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Now, it’s the college game that is front-and-center in Robert Moore’s mind.

Moore, a 2019 Perfect Game All-American shortstop ranked the No. 20 overall prospect in the prep class of 2020, announced via Twitter today that he is now a graduate of Shawnee Mission (Kan.) East High School and has enrolled at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in time for the 2020 spring semester.

With the move, Moore – who will begin taking classes  at Arkansas in mid-January – is no longer eligible for the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft. The 17½-year-old is instead joining a powerhouse college program that has made six trips to the College World Series since 2004 under head coach Dave Van Horn, including three since 2015 with back-to-back appearances in 2018-19.

“I’m really excited about this; I’ve got an opportunity to go to a school that’s got a chance to win for what I hope is (many more) years,” Moore told Perfect Game late last week before making the decision official today.

Moore was accepted into the university just as he was getting ready to take his final exams at Shawnee Mission East. He has been in contact with Britta DeLay, Arkansas’ Assistant Director of Academics for the baseball team, so he can have his schedule in place ahead of the start of classes on Jan. 13. He will be in Fayetteville on Jan. 7 for freshman orientation.

So in a very real way, it’s as if Moore had come in with the recruiting class of 2019, which makes him immediately eligible to play for the Razorbacks as a freshman this spring. He had committed to the school in July 2018 as the crown jewel of the Razorbacks’ 2020 recruiting class, which meant he wouldn’t have been eligible to play until the 2021 season.

The subject of early high school graduation/early college enrollment was first broached by the Arkansas coaching staff in October 2018 when Moore was playing with his beloved Royals Scout Team at the PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

He told PG it was at that time he received a call from coach Van Horn, who told him that he and assistant coach/recruiting coordinator Nate Thompson had been discussing the possibility of Moore reclassifying and was eager to learn what the young prospect thought of the idea.

Initially, Moore balked. His dream had always been to play professional baseball and he felt like he had a pretty good shot at being selected in the early rounds of the 2020 MLB June Amateur Draft. There was no way, he had told himself, that he was going to go to college for three years and put that dream on hold.

Moore changed his way of thinking after making an official campus visit this past October, right around the time he was enjoying a second go-around with the Royals Scout Team in Jupiter. The Razorback coaches approached him again and told him if he wanted to earn his high school diploma early and enroll at the semester break, he would be welcomed with open arms. They also reminded him he’d be just 20 years old when he becomes draft-eligible again in 2022.

“I thought about it and I thought it made the most sense,” Moore said of the plan, “and now I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”

Moore sought out the advice of a lot of people whose knowledge and opinions he trusted and respected with his parents, Dayton and Marianne, leading the way. Because of his dad’s position with Royals, Robert had developed trusting relationships with several people within the organization, and they all gave him honest opinions on what they would want their son to do if he were in a similar situation.

“This is my first go-through with this,” Moore said with a laugh. “Growing up, I learned a lot about the professional side but I never knew a whole lot about the college side. I needed to seek-out a lot of information.”

He’s put both his physical talents and his high baseball IQ on display at more than 30 PG tournaments and showcases the last three years, starting with the 2016 PG Freshman East MLK Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., where he earned all-tournament recognition.

Fifteen more all-tourney team selections followed, including those at the 2018 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., and the 2018 and 2019 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla.

Moore turned in Top Prospect List performances at both the 2017 and ’18 PG Junior National Showcases and his invitation to the PG All-American Classic certifies him for TPL inclusion at the PG National Showcase in June. He was also invited to the inaugural PG 14u Select Baseball Festival held in Fort Myers over the 2016 Labor Day Weekend.

Perfect Game founder/president Jerry Ford has been following Moore’s career closely and has been justifiably impressed with what the young prospect has shown. Ford is of the belief that Moore will benefit from his college experiences over the next three years and is also convinced Moore will play in the big leagues one day because of the important intangible traits he already possesses.

“Robert’s biggest tool is he’s a baseball player. A real baseball player,” Ford said this week. “So often we see kids that are very, very talented. They can run, throw, hit and do whatever, but they’re not baseball players. Robert’s biggest attribute is his feel for the game – he’s a baseball player.”

Robert Moore is able to bring a unique perspective based on his upbringing. Dayton Moore recently completed his 13th full season as the GM of the Royals and Robert thrived growing up in that baseball-centric environment.

He was able to spend his spring breaks at the Royals’ spring training complex in Surprise, Ariz., learning everything there was to learn about the ins and outs of being a part of a Major League Baseball organization.

“Watching professional players go about their business has helped me a lot,” Moore told PG while playing at the 17u PG World Series in July. “What it takes to get to that level, what they eat, what they drink, how they perfect their bodies. It’s a lot of information that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I think it would be a shame if I didn’t take advantage of it.”

Now he will turn his full attention and focus to being the best college baseball player and best college student that he can be. Moore graduated high school with roughly a 3.5 GPA and while he feels like he’s ready for this academic and athletic challenge from the mental side of things he admits he won’t truly know until he gets thrown into the fire. One thing he does know is that he’ll have no problem with living away from home.

“Playing with Perfect Game when you had to be away for weeks at a time in Atlanta or Florida or Arizona or wherever, that’s not new to me. Mentally I think I’m prepared for that,” he said.

It’s a telling positive character trait that the biggest negative Moore sees coming from this decision is that it means he won’t be able to play for his high school team this spring in what would have been his senior season.

He told PG that walking away from one last opportunity to play a season with all his high school buddies was more difficult than taking his name out of the MLB Draft. At the same time, there will definitely be a feeling of familiarity once he gets acclimated to his new life in Fayetteville.

“I’m excited to be able to play collegiate baseball. That’s something that’s going to be very special to people in my family and my community,” Moore said. “Me being able to participate in the baseball program at the University of Arkansas will be a big deal for people in my community. One of the big reasons why I chose Arkansas in the first place is because the better players from this area have always gone there.”

Kansas City-area players Christian Franklin, Liam Henry and Zebulon Vermillion already hold spots on the Razorbacks’ roster. Vermillion, a junior right-hander, graduated from Shawnee Mission East in 2017.

Another reality that factored into the choice is that Arkansas is a member of the SEC, certainly one of the most prestigious baseball conferences in the country. Moore looks forward to playing in front of capacity crowds at many of the loudest and proudest venues to be found anywhere in what he calls a “football-like” atmosphere. That description most definitely applies when talk turns to the atmosphere in Fayetteville.

Robert Moore, a young man who has already performed on national television at both the 2016 PG 14u Select Baseball Festival and the 2019 PG All-American Classic, can now look forward to experiencing those venues a year earlier than anyone envisioned. And there might not be anyone more surprised by this turn of events than Robert Moore himself.

“You know, I never really had a plan for the future. I never looked 10 days down the road, I just took it one day at a time,” he said. “I never thought I’d be a PG All-American … and truthfully I never even thought about college baseball or committing to a college – it just all kind of happened one day. It’s worked out so far so I guess that’s kind of my plan for the future now.”

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