Twenty-eight years ago, hobbled Los Angeles Dodger Kirk Gibson cranked a walk-off home run for a World Series Game 1 victory in one of baseball’s iconic moments.
In the opening round of the Class 4A Brownsburg Sectional on Wednesday, Avon senior Matt Moore delivered his program’s equivalent. Moore, scheduled to have Tommy John elbow surgery next month, blasted a two-run shot over the center-field wall for a 4-2 extra-innings triumph over Terre Haute North.
Seventh-year Avon baseball coach Troy Drosche summed it up.
“It’s the greatest game I’ve been a part of here,” said Drosche, whose team faces rival Brownsburg in Monday’s 10 a.m. semifinal. “It was so special because of what Matt’s been through.”
Moore got the pitch he wanted and instantly knew its destination.
“The way it came off the bat, the way it sounded, I knew it was a home run,” said Moore, a Purdue signee batting .231 with one good arm. “We have such a tight group of guys, so to do it for them, especially Andrew (Griffin) and Ryan (Dickison), whom I’ve played sports with since the second grade, it was great.”
Moore’s teammates are why he’s playing at all right now.
The 6-3, 200-pound left-handed pitcher experienced pain in his throwing arm last summer. It didn’t slow him in the fall, as the all-state tight end caught 56 passes for 680 yards and eight touchdowns for the regional champion Orioles.
Moore rehabbed the arm, but pain lingered and intensified after a couple of mound appearances this season. That’s when a doctor visit yielded the bad news.
“He told me the only way I’d be able to pitch again would be with Tommy John surgery,” Moore said of the procedure that reconstructs the joint’s ulnar collateral ligament.
To finish the final season with his friends, Moore talked to Drosche about a modified role. After a brief stint at first base, he switched to designated hitter. On Wednesday, however, he was back at first despite his limited throwing range.
“Because of what he can still do defensively, we decided our best chance to win was with him out there,” Drosche said. “He’s as tough as they come.”
After his heroics last week, Moore’s thoughts quickly shifted to classmate Ben Harmon, an Avon cross-country and track runner recently diagnosed with cancer. Harmon’s photo hung in the dugout, and Moore tweeted “#BenStrong” immediately after the game.
“He’s so involved and well-liked at school. We’re all rallying around him and started a GoFundMe page (https://www.gofundme.com/benharmon) for him,” Moore said. “He started chemo on Tuesday, and was so ecstatic when he heard we won. We’re doing this for him.”
Playing for someone is nothing new to Moore. He does so every game for his father, David, who died in an auto accident when Moore was 10.
“He had a great smile and would light up a room, so I try to incorporate that in my life,” Moore said. “It’s hard after games, when everyone’s talking to their dads. I wish he was here.”
In both football and baseball, numerous team fathers have embraced Moore as one of their own.
“I’m always getting texts before and after games from them, saying how proud my dad would be,” Moore said. “It means so much to me.”