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East Tennessee State catcher/pitcher Caleb Moore recently took time to answer a few questions from SCS.com. Moore is one of the top players in the Southern Conference and is a returning senior in Johnson City. After being named the So-Con Player of the Year following his junior season at ETSU, the Knoxville native was recently named to the Louisville Slugger 2005 Preseason First Team All-America squad.
The Buccaneers have stormed out of the gates with six straight victories to begin the season. On the season so far, Moore is hitting .444 with four doubles and a homerun. The senior has also driven in ten runs, compiled an .833 slugging percentage, and scored three runs.
CALEB MOORE, EAST TENNESSEE STATE
SCS.com: Coming out of Catholic High School in Knoxville, what other colleges did you consider and why did you ultimately choose East Tennessee State?
Moore: "Coming out of Catholic, a school of about 400 with a baseball team that is not that good, I never did get much recognition, so most of the schools were mid-major type schools like ETSU. I did get an offer from one or two big schools, but there was not much money involved and I would have had to redshirt a year. Coach Skole told me that I would have a very good chance of starting right away, and playing time was one of the most important things I was looking for. And most of all, I really just felt at home at ETSU. The players were all great guys and made me feel welcome. I knew that the coaching staff was new and trying to rebuild the team, and I wanted to be part of something special like that."
SCS.com: You play both catcher and pitcher for the Bucs and have done so since your freshman season. First of all, how difficult is it to switch gears in the middle of the game, and how often have you had to do that? Secondly, how much of an advantage is it for you to be able to think like a pitcher when you're behind the plate, and vice-versa?
Moore: "I have been pitching and catching for years, so it really isn't that hard for me to switch gears. Catching and pitching, I think, is a great advantage for me. After catching eight innings, I think I get to know the opposing hitters pretty well. Even though I don't pitch like a starter, I think I get to know some of the weaknesses of a hitter and try to take advantage of that when I come in. As for how much I do this, I usually only come in if we are in a save situation."
SCS.com: The improvement between your sophomore and junior seasons was unbelievable. After hitting .216 as a freshman and .234 as a sophomore, you nearly doubled those averages, compiling a .455 batting average in 2004, the best in the entire nation. You also led the country with an average of 0.60 doubles per contest. You were at the top of the Southern Conference charts in the slugging percentage (.752) category. How were you able to make such a drastic improvement between 2003 and 2004?
Moore: "There are a couple of things I did different. After my sophomore season, I got to play summer ball unlike after my freshman year because of surgery on a broken hamate in my hand. It is key to get about 100 more at-bats with wood so you get to know your swing a lot better. And that whole summer I worked out about three or four times a week. I gained about 20 to 25 pounds from my sophomore to junior year. And I would hit everyday, even if it was only 25 to 30 swings. And finally confidence, just knowing that I was good enough to play at the D-I level."
SCS.com: Following the 2004 season, both the conference coaches and media selected you as the Southern Conference Player of the Year. Louisville Slugger also named you a Second Team All-American. How does it feel to be compared to not only the best in your league, but also to the best baseball players in the entire country?
Moore: "It is weird to see my name listed with some of the best players in the nation. Personally I think I still have so much to work on to become a more complete player. It will definitely be some fun to show my kids and grandkids."
SCS.com: The national recognition has not stopped. Just recently, Louisville Slugger named you to its 2005 Preseason First Team All-America squad. What does this national exposure mean not only to you but to your team and your school?
Moore: "I don't care much about the personal exposure. I think it will help our team more with exposure and help get ETSU on the baseball map. We definitely have something special started here, and this might help propel us to national exposure."
SCS.com: You and the Bucs finished 28-30 overall and 15-15 in the conference last season. It looks as if 2005 could be a huge season for ETSU. All but one of the team's top hitters return this spring, and most of the pitching staff is also back on campus. It also appears that a talented group of newcomers will be there to provide a boost as well. In this your senior season, how far do you think this team can go, and what are the team's goals for 2005?
Moore: "I think that the sky is the limit with this team. This is by far the most talented team I have ever played on. Offensively, we will be very dangerous! Our pitching has come a long way, and defensively we look strong as well. As a team, we are just going to try to take care of one game at a time. But long term, a SoCon Championship and Regional berth is definitely our main goal."
SCS.com: One of your former teammates, Tim Turner, recently signed a contract with the San Diego Padres and credited the staff and program at ETSU for his recent success. Have you had a chance to talk with Turner or any other current pro player, and if so, what advice have they given you regarding your current college career and possible future in pro baseball?
Moore: "Most of the advice I have gotten has come from Coach Skole. The main thing for me is to go out and relax, have fun, and play my game. Everything will take care of itself. I just need to go out and play as hard as I can and do whatever I can do to help us get a SoCon Championship. I try not to look ahead to pro baseball; I would much rather have championship ring at this point in my career."
SCS.com: Your head coach, Tony Skole, is entering his sixth season on campus at ETSU. Collegiate Baseball magazine has ranked five of his recruiting classes among the nation's best. How has Coach Skole gotten the program heading in the right direction, and how is he able to continually get some of the top baseball talent to attend East Tennessee State?
Moore: "Coach Skole and the rest of the staff do a tremendous job getting great ball players to come to ETSU. Not only are the players we are getting good baseball players but great guys also. This team really has a family atmosphere. I know that I would do anything for my teammates, and I think all the guys feel the same way. I think that he is also getting guys in here that believe in his system and really have the will to win and to turn this program around."
SCS.com: Catchers are known for having knee problems, and spending long games behind the plate doesn't help that problem. Off the top of your head, which game can you think of was probably the worst you have ever had to catch, whether it be because of the game's length or maybe because of the weather?
Moore: "Off the top of my head, my sophomore year we had to play a double-header against Wofford. They were supposed to be two seven-inning games, but they turned out to be a ten- and then a nine-inning game. Not only that, it was about 35 to 40 degrees with light rain both of the games. I was extremely sore the next day; luckily we got snowed out on Sunday."
SCS.com: Though it doesn't have to do with baseball, it is interesting to note that basketball has brought recent national recognition to ETSU. Little point guard Tim Smith, standing just 5'5" and weighing 155, made national headlines last season as he led the Bucs into the NCAA Tournament. Once he got there, he poured in 26 points against national-power Cincinnati. How does Smith rank among the basketball players you've seen over time, and even though it's a different sport, what can you take away from the way the little guy plays the game and gets the job done?
Moore: "Tim is definitely one of the top basketball players I have ever seen play. I think that he and I have a lot in common. We both aren't that big of guys and both play at a mid-major school. It just shows that you don't have to be one of the biggest guys out there to succeed in your sport. You have to have heart and the will to win and succeed."
SCS.com: What is your favorite memory from your baseball career, whether it be little league, high school, or college?
Moore: "Last year we swept The Citadel. This is huge because Coach Skole played and graduated from there. They are also one of the top teams in the conference year in and year out. Since I have been here, I think we had only beaten them twice before last year. It was the most exciting weekend of college baseball I have ever seen or been a part of. It went back and forth all weekend. Luckily we came out on top all three games; it was the greatest team effort of the year."
SCS.com: Many athletes have role models that guide their athletic and personal lives. Who is one person you look up to on the field and one person you admire off the field?
Moore: "On the field, Pete Rose. He played so hard and was such a great player. Even though he did not have the greatest talent, he had the most heart and the will to succeed. Off the field, my father Alan. He has helped me out in so many aspects of my life. He has been there for every time I needed him and really helped me become who I am today. He has also prepared me for the 'real world' after baseball."
SCS.com: What are a few things you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Moore: "I enjoy listening to music and watching movies. But really I like to do anything to do with sports: play basketball, throw football, anything of that sort. In the fall, I watch the Cincinnati Bengals play. I am a huge Bengals fan! And I enjoy going to watch my brother coach his football team (at Morehead State)."
SCS.com: If a young baseball player was reading this and aspired to become successful in the sport, what advice would you give him?
Moore: "I would tell him to have a good work ethic and to never give up. You are going to fail, and you have to get back up and go after it again. So don't be afraid to dream because you never know: they might come true....you just have to work hard."
SCS.com would again like to thank East Tennessee State's Caleb Moore for taking time to answer our questions. We would like to wish he and the Buccaneers the best of luck throughout the upcoming season.
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