Moore brings decades of experience to Fuego
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
MESA, Ariz. — Most professional athletes have a time limit on how long they can play. Physically, their bodies often wear out long before they're ready to call it quits. Good coaches, on the other hand, can coach as long as they're winning, and if longevity is the mark of a good coach, the Pecos League has one of the best.
Last season, Bill Moore came on board with the expansion Santa Fe Fuego, and while he had a tough go of it — the Fuego had a losing season — it wasn't for his lack of coaching experience.
Moore never played beyond junior college, but after he came home from military in 1967 and went back to school he hope to join the Phoenix College team. Unfortunately, "I wasn't good enough to make the team," Moore said. "And the coach said, 'Well, I've got good news and bad news.'"
The bass news was Moore wasn't going to be cut, but wouldn't play. On the plus side, the team had room for a student assistant.
"I decided to do that rather than go home or sit on the bench all season. I got to throw a little batting practice and hang out with the guys and it was a good deal for me," Moore said.
And a coaching career was born.
Moore spent time selling used cars and eventually bought the dealership he worked at, but all along he coached baseball, staring with Connie Mack 14-15 year old teams, and going on to coach at McClintock High School in Tempe and Mesa Community College.
"I experienced a lot of success," the coach said.
In 1984, Moore's Garden of Gears squad won the Arizona Connie Mack championship and went on to the regionals, where Moore said his eyes were opened. His squad was comprised mainly of high school players from one school with a few additional pitchers "and you can't compete with that on the regional, national level with a one high school team. It's literally impossible."
A friend of Moore's won the same state title a year later with another team, and the two coaches realized they needed to create competitive teams.
"So he and I kind of figured out a way that we could just take graduated seniors, and we divided the city of Phoenix in half," he said, creating all-star teams with the best of the best. "We were calling high school coaches and saying, 'Hey? You got any good seniors who are good kids and can play some baseball? Why don't you send them over?'"
Moore said high school coaches really bought into that, and the program evolved to where it is today, with 200 teams in Phoenix.
Moore continued coaching, and his Garden of Gears team saw a number of players sword their way up to the big league, the most famous Andre Either and Paul Konerko.
"There's been a lot of others. Those are probably the closest to being stars," Moore said.
But times have changed, the coach said, which meant he moved on to other venues.
"Getting kids to come and play in Connie Mack, it was just getting harder and harder to do it," he said. "There's a lot of competition for the players. I had a good reputation and all, but there were guys with a lot of money who were doing it and weren't charging the kids any money at all to play, and I had to get them to help pay for tournaments and stuff. So it just got where it was really, really hard to get good players."
So, while coaching at Mesa CC, Garden of Gears started playing in the National Baseball Congress, with his team comprised of college players from Arizona and elsewhere across the U.S. After successful years with the Mesa squad, Moore got a call from the Bisbee, Ariz., Copper Kings, who asked him to coach their squad. It was there he met Pecos League commissioner Andrew Dunn.
"Andrew was kind of recruiting me for the last year I was down in Bisbee to come and coach."
The Copper Kings won a championship three years in a row, but then folded, and Moore put in a call to Dunn, who offered him a spot in the Pecos League.
The long-time coach has been happily married almost 41 years — he'll celebrate his anniversary Memorial Day weekend — but coaching has kept him away from home for a lot of the time.
"How many anniversaries have I spent with my wife on Memorial Day? Not very many," he laughed, but said that was his life even before he got married.
He has two daughters, one a nutritionist who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and one living in New York City getting ready to graduate with a law degree.
Moore lives in Mesa only five miles from where he grew up — I haven't come very far in life," he laughed — said the thing he's most proud of is his more than 1,150 wins as a head coach.
"And I'm not talking about how many I've lost or how many I've been the assistant coach at, I'm just talking about being the winning head daddy," Moore said. "I'm kind of proud of that. That's a lot of baseball games, and I'm thinking there's probably not many other people in the league who've even been involved in that many baseball games."
It also feels good to know he's coached so many players who've gone on to bigger and better things.
"Absolutely, it does," he said. "I tell you what feels real good for me. I don't even know how many guys who are coaching baseball now that have played for me. And the thing that that tells me is in their experience playing for me, that they had a good time, or they wouldn't still be hanging out with the game."
And that's the attitude he brings to Santa Fe.
"You're supposed to (have fun)," Moore said. "It's a game. Realistically, it should be fun. If it's not fun why are you out there?"
Moore will open his second year with the Fuego on the road in Taos May 15.
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212