Moran finds his sport in baseball
By David Paschall Staff Writer
Growing up in Valdosta, Ga., a town long known for its football passion, Javon Moran decided that baseball better suited his talents.
Cincinnati Reds officials and Chattanooga Lookouts supporters would agree he made the right choice.
After Tuesday nightís series opening win at West Tenn, Moran was hitting.333 with six doubles, seven RBIs and nine stolen bases. The 23-year-old right fielder also entered last night as Chattanoogaís only position player yet to commit an error.
"I did grow up in football territory, but I only played football one year, and that was when I was like 11 or 12," Moran said. "I played quarterback and running back that year, but after it was over, I just wanted to play baseball. Everybody else was playing football, but I just tried to stay out of all that. I was too small anyway."
After graduating from Lowndes High School, Moran played three seasons at Auburn University before the Philadelphia Phillies selected him in the fifth round of the 2003 draft. He spent just 14 months in that organization, coming to the Reds in August 2004 with pitchers Joe Wilson and Elizardo Ramirez in exchange for big-league pitcher Cory Lidle.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Moran made his Chattanooga debut last July and hit.301 in 23 games before a wrist injury sidelined him for the last two weeks of the season. The same injury kept him in extended spring down in Sarasota, and he didnít rejoin the Lookouts until May 24. Because Moran has only played in 38 Double-A games this season after Tuesday, he does not show up among Southern League statistical leaders. Otherwise, his average would top the charts.
"I think heís done a good job as a leadoff guy, working the count and putting the ball in play, and heís putting himself back on the radar screen after his wrist injury," Lookouts manager Jayhawk Owens said. "Heís got a very simple hitting approach. He doesnít hit it on the end of the bat, and he doesnít get jammed a lot. He hits it on the sweet spot.
"Obviously he has speed. Heís hit quite a few high choppers this season, and any time there is a ground ball, he puts pressure on the defense."
Owens and hitting coach Jamie Dismuke said center fielder Chris Dickerson is the fastest player on this yearís team. Moran doesnít agree. "Itís me, of course," he said smiling. "There have been reports that Dickerson is faster than me, but he doesnít want to step up to the challenge. We havenít been able to lay it out. The coaches wonít let us during the season."
Speed has become secondary to consistency for Moran, who has hit over.300 at every stop since coming to the Reds. He hit.383 with Single-A Dayton in the final 25 games of the 2004 season following his trade and hit.329 in 53 games at high Single-A Sarasota last year before arriving in Chattanooga.
Moran said his average so far this season surpasses last yearís clip primarily because of patience. "With the wrist injury, I canít swing at everything like I did last year," he said. "I have to be more patient and look for my pitch. When I get it, I canít miss it."
Should Moran further enhance his game, which includes a sharpening of bunting and base-running skills, he could find himself among tall trees in Cincinnatiís outfield. Two former Lookouts, Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, occupy starting spots now because of the power numbers that accompany their sizable frames.
Dunn is 6-6 and 275 pounds, while Kearns is 6-3 and 245. "Javon is a valuable part of the Redsí future, because they will need speed," Dismuke said. "Those big donkeys hit it out of the ballpark, but every now and then you need a Ryan Freel, and heís that type."
E-mail David Paschall at email@example.com