It’s certain that Danville Braves right-hander Stephen Moore will not move up this year from the Rookie League level.
It’s not because his numbers haven’t merited consideration for promotion in the Atlanta organization. Through July 19, Moore had a 2-0 record in 14.2 innings of middle relief and had yielded just four earned runs en route to a 2.45 ERA.
As a 2015 Naval Academy graduate, he will instead depart for Pensacola, Fla., on July 31 to train as a Naval Flight Officer. Midshipmen fulfill a minimum five-year military obligation serving the country in return for a free education at the Naval Academy.
The Roswell, Ga., native is trying to follow the extended, but ultimately successful, path to the majors of current St. Louis Cardinals’ reliever Mitch Harris. Harris is a 2008 graduate of Annapolis and earned a spot with the Cardinals after a five-year service term followed by two years in the minors. He debuted with St. Louis this year on April 25 after starting the season with the Memphis Redbirds of the Pacific Coast League.
At the All-Star break, Harris had a 3.10 ERA in 19 appearances.
Prior to Harris, it had been 94 years since a Midshipmen baseball player ascended to the majors. The only Navy graduate to ever previously achieve the feat was Nemo Gaines, who pitched 4.2 innings for the Washington Senators in 1921 while appearing in four games. The brief stint comprised his entire major league baseball career, but he entered the military following his stay with the Senators and later served in World War II, reaching the rank of captain.
Moore debuted with Danville of the short-season Appalachian League in late June after being drafted by the Braves in the 10th round of the 2015 MLB Draft.
“It was a very exciting moment knowing that I was about to make my professional debut. Once I got out on the mound, the nerves went away and I felt ready to go,” Moore said in a Naval Academy release.
Following his first outing, Moore yielded just two earned runs in his next 12.2 innings of work. To date, he has fanned six batters while issuing four free passes to opposing hitters.
Earlier this year, he helped the Midshipmen (37-20, 13-7) to a regular season first place finish in the Patriot League. Navy then advanced to the league’s championship game before falling by one run to Lehigh in extra frames. The righty notched a critical win over Lafayette when the Mids faced elimination in the first round of postseason play.
He went 7-3 on the season and struck out 69 against just 18 walks to help merit the attention of Major League Baseball. During his career with Navy, Moore struck out 199 batters in 269.2 innings of work. In 2013, he earned First Team All-Patriot League honors after earning a spot in the Midshipmen’s weekend rotation in mid-March of that season.