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Nogales Slugger Has a Dream--Majors : Big Outfielder Boo Moore Hits Often and Long; Scouts Are Watching

May 12, 1988|MITCH POLIN | Times Staff Writer

After being listed among the top 25 high school pro prospects in the nation by Baseball America magazine recently, outfielder Boo Moore of Nogales High in La Puente soon discovered the price of his new-found notoriety.

Almost immediately, the 18-year-old senior said, opponents began pitching to him differently.

"A lot of pitchers have pitched around me instead of trying to face me," Moore says. "They never challenge me with a fastball or anything. I have to adjust to hitting the curve."

Maybe that also explains how Moore's batting average has dipped from .489 to .377, since he was named to the list. He says on occasion he has swung at bad pitches out of frustration.

"I'm a pretty good fastball hitter," he says. "I can adjust, but sometimes you get fed up at swinging at curves and swing at pitches that aren't in the strike zone."

But despite Moore's recent difficulty, pro scouts are still bullish about his potential. That is evident by the number of scouts who watch Nogales games.

Nogales Coach John Romano is also convinced that the 6-4, 205-pounder has a bright future as a pro.

"Boo has had a difficult time after the article came out because they started to pitch around him more and umpires started to call it closer," Romano said. "He's had a difficult time, but I still think he's going to be a great pro.

"These scouting directors look at Boo's size and that's the thing they like. He's the highest ranked player we've ever had. He's got the tools, no question about it."

Romano is in a good position to know about pro potential. Two of his players from the early 1980s, Cecil Fielder and Mark Salas, are playing for major league teams. Fielder is with the Toronto Blue Jays and Salas with the Chicago White Sox.

Another former standout, second baseman Mate Borgogno, is starring as a freshman (.375 average) for Nebraska. Nogales also has another outfielder, senior Richard Witherspoon, who is batting .469 and considered a pro prospect.

The coach is not afraid to rank Moore among the best players ever for the Nobles.

"I would say Boo and Richard are the best two players I've ever coached, and that's a hard thing to say because I'm so close to Borgogno and Fielder," Romano said.

For as long as he can remember, Moore says he has dreamed of playing in the major leagues.

"It's on my mind a lot," he said. "That's the one thing I promised my grandmother before she died, and now I want to fulfill that."

Born in Augusta, Ga., Moore started playing at age 6. His early interest may have been because his father, Johnny, and older brother, Franklin, were good baseball players.

Although his first name is Meredith, he says he has been known as Boo since childhood.

"It was kind of given to me when I was born," he said. "My great uncle couldn't pronounce my real name, and the first name that came to mind was Boo, so he started calling me that. It's a name I've grown up with."

After moving with his family to La Puente at age 12, Moore also developed into an outstanding basketball player. A starter for the Nobles last season, Moore averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds and was named to the All-Sierra League team.

But Moore said the thought of playing basketball has never meant as much as baseball.

"I'm pretty tall and everyone always told me to go out for the basketball team," he said. "I listened to other people a lot, but if I had done my own thing, baseball would have been my only choice."

Romano said the steady stream of attention Moore has received from scouts may be a result of a strong winter season.

It also didn't hurt Moore to get seven hits in his first 11 at bats during the regular season. Moore, who has outstanding strength, also built his reputation with a couple of mammoth home runs early in the season.

"He hit one over the 390 sign at Nogales and one over the fence at Pasadena that they said was the longest ever hit there," Romano said. Moore has four home runs for the season.

While the hits have not been coming as fast for Moore recently, Romano said the ingredients for success are there.

"He's coachable and sound fundamentally, and he's only going to get better," Romano said. "You have to realize that he hasn't played a full summer of baseball because he was playing basketball."

What also makes Moore a strong draft candidate for major league scouts is that he is one of the few top prospects who has not signed a national letter of intent to play college baseball.

Moore acknowledges that his college plans are secondary to playing pro baseball.

"I've thought about going to college, but I haven't passed the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) yet," he said. "If I don't, I'll probably go pro."

He will not have another chance to pass the test until June 4, three days after the major league baseball free agent draft.

Moore is looking to the draft. He would like to be drafted by Atlanta, considering that it is close to his hometown and he has been a longtime Braves fan. "But it doesn't really matter," he said. "I just want to go somewhere."

For now, Moore is more concerned about helping the Nobles reach the CIF 5-A Division playoffs--a feat his team has accomplished in his first two seasons.

In fact, the Nobles have made a habit of reaching the playoffs with Romano as coach the last 10 years. "We've made it the last six years and we want to make it seven," Moore said.

The Nobles entered the week in a three-way tie with Rowland and Wilson for second place in the Sierra League at 7-6 and are 14-8-1 overall.

Considering the team's successful tradition, Moore said losing was difficult earlier in the season.

"We're not used to losing, and when we started losing the players kind of got away from each other, but these past couple of games everyone has gotten together and we've started to hit," he said.

Moore is hoping that he will also start to regain his hitting touch.

He has already been a big hit with pro scouts.

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