UNC star Moran begins professional career
The baseball scene in the Triad just got more exciting as the Miami Marlins signed their No. 1 draft pick and assigned him to Greensboro. It doesn’t hurt that he happens to be Colin Moran, the best player on this year’s North Carolina team, which was ranked No. 1 nationally all season before falling to UCLA in the College World Series.
“Losing out in the series was disappointing, but I have great memories about getting there,” said Moran during an interview at NewBridge Bank Park. “It was a blast, going through the ups and downs of the season with my team and my teammates.”
One reason it was such a blast for Moran was that he led all college baseball in RBIs last year with 91, a UNC record. He also hit 13 homers and batted .345. Moran was the ACC Player of the Year and a finalist for the Dick Howser award, which goes to the player chosen to be the best in college baseball.
When it comes to baseball, Moran was born in a royal family. His uncle, B.J. Surhoff, a UNC alumnus himself, was the first player chosen in the 1985 draft. He went on to a long successful career as an outfielder, third baseman and catcher with the Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. B.J.’s brother, Rick, also made the majors and Moran’s own brother, Brian, yet another former Carolina standout, is a Triple-A all-star pitcher for Tacoma in the Seattle organization. By the time Colin was born on October 1, 1992, B.J. had completed six of his 19 big-league seasons.
“My Uncle B.J. was always my favorite player,” Moran said. “Growing up, I remember going to Orioles games. I actually remember skipping school so that I could go to his last Opening Day.”
While Moran’s great uncle is William E. Moran, chancellor of UNC-Greensboro from 1979 until 1994, the younger Moran’s ambitions were on the diamond rather than in the classroom.
“I’ve dreamed about being a ballplayer my whole life,” he said.
That’s why Moran chose to attend Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, N.Y., rather than Rye (N.Y.) High School, where Surhoff had gone.
“Baseball is better at Iona Prep,” Moran said. “It was a better fit. My brother played there and I followed him. It was a great decision; I loved my four years there. I loved playing for Fred Gallo, the coach.”
Colin also wanted to follow his brother and his uncle at Carolina, but for a while, he was not sure those feelings were mutual.
“I always had it in my mind that I wanted to go to Carolina, but it was kind of hard to get them to think the same way,” Moran recalled. “It was a little hard waiting on them to make the decision.”
Moran wasted little time proving that the Tar Heels had made the right decision by offering him a baseball scholarship. Not only was he the team’s starting third baseman, he led the team with a .335 batting average, .442 on-base percentage, .540 slugging average, nine home runs, 20 doubles and 71 RBIs. Moran was ACC Freshman of the Year and on the national Freshman All-America team. His sophomore season was riddled with injuries, but he was still good enough to make the second All-America team. Then, came this year’s record-breaking season.
“I can’t thank Coach (Scott) Jackson enough,” Moran said of his hitting coach at Carolina. “Playing against the high-caliber competition, like we had, makes you better, so I’m thankful I had the opportunity to do it.”
On draft day, the Marlins selected Moran sixth overall. He signed with the organization for a cool $3.5 million, allowing his life-long dream of being a professional baseball player to come true.
“Ever since that happened, I’ve been unbelievably excited,” said the new third-base prospect. “I got to meet all the Marlins while I was in Miami, including their manager (Todd Redmond) and Tino Martinez, their hitting coach. I grew up watching him with the Yankees. He was an unbelievable player.”Moran continued his professional career as his amateur career ended. In his first at-bat as a pro, he connected for a home run.
“I believe it was a fastball,” Moran said of the pitch that sailed over the right-center field fence at NewBridge. “I had two strikes, so I was looking to get my bat on a good pitch to hit.”
For youngsters who hope to become professional ballplayers themselves, Moran says, “Just work as hard as you can, and let the rest play out. Nothing is given to you, so you’ve got to earn everything.”