Billy Moon is used to being the young guy in the dugout. When you can throw a curveball that makes even the best hitter’s knees buckle, you tend to get called up.
So being the youngest member of the Spokane RiverHawks baseball club is nothing new for Moon. In fact, he insists, it’s the norm.
“Until this past year at University, my senior year, I was always the youngest guy on the team,” Moon said.
On the baseball field, Moon always has been precocious. A four-year letterman for the Titans, he first cracked the all-league team as a sophomore and committed to play baseball at Gonzaga University prior to his junior season.
Moon was 8-1 as a left-handed pitcher and clinched the Titans’ second consecutive Greater Spokane League championship by hurling a no-hitter against Mead. He amassed 111 strikeouts as a senior and posted an earned run average of 1.94. An outfielder/first baseman, he hit a torrid .523 and drove in 36 runs. He was named the GSL Most Valuable Player for his efforts.
“Playing at U-Hi did a great job getting me ready to play at the next level,” he said. “But it’s a whole new level and I have to make myself better if I’m going to be successful.”
What matters in the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League is what he can do against college-age players wielding wooden bats.
“When you’re pitching in high school, there are always going to be games when you know you’re not going to have a lot of trouble,” he said. “In this league, every player you face could easily be better than the best player on any of those high school teams.”
In Moon’s case, he has friends on the team to help make the transition easier.
Tyler Olson and Danny Jordan, both teammates at University during Moon’s first three years as a Titan, play for the RiverHawks. Olson, a left-handed pitcher, just finished his freshman season at Gonzaga. Jordan struggled through a medical redshirt season at Lower Columbia College in Longview, Wash., battling through back problems.
“It helps to have friends on the team,” Moon said. “But this has been a great group to play ball with. We all get along really well on the field and off the field we have a blast together. I’ve been picking the brains of these guys and learning as much as I can from them.”
So far, Moon is more than holding his own.
Through the first 10 games of the season, starting nine games in the outfield and a 10th as a pitcher, Moon is batting .378.
“It takes some getting used to,” he said. “The wooden bat takes some getting used to and so does facing guys who can throw 92-mile-an-hour fastballs.”
On the mound, he said, he’s learning how to pitch against college-level hitters.
“Right now I’m the slowest guy on the team,” he said. “I don’t have the kind of velocity these other guys have – my fastball is only in the mid-80s at best. I’m working hard to improve my velocity and I think I can get there.
“I have to be able to locate all four of my pitches – the fastball, the curve, the change-up and the slider. If I make a mistake with any of those pitches, these hitters will jump all over it.”
His new coaches already have helped him make the transition.
“They’re telling me to aim for the middle of the plate and then expand outward,” he said. “It doesn’t sound all that different, but it makes a difference for me. It helps me hit the corners better with all four of my pitches.”
Moon was given the night off from the field Wednesday against Moses Lake, but did enter the game as a relief pitcher, throwing an inning and a third.
“It’s different coming in as a reliever,” Moon said. “But I just considered it a short start. I knew I was only going to be in there for an inning or so, so I just went out there and threw hard.”
Looking ahead, Moon said he followed Gonzaga’s season closely – enjoying the team’s run in the NCAA Tournament.
“I’ve talked with Tyler about it and I know he’s really excited about getting back next year and making another run at it,” he said. “They didn’t make it to the finals – they were a couple steps short of getting there. But it makes you hungry to get back. I want to help them do that.”