Moore's Big Night

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- On Monday night, Scott Moore instantly became the talk of a state capitol in less time than it usually takes its political pundits to churn out the day's latest company line.          

The Cubs' third base prospect launched a pair of home runs and drove in four runs as part of a 3-for-4 night to win Southern League All-Star Game MVP honors unanimously. The North easily defeated the South, 9-4.

Upon entering the game, Moore hadn't showcased anything overly noteworthy for the hometown fans of the Montgomery Biscuits -- at least not in the power department. The 22-year-old quickly bowed out of the league's annual home run derby, eventually won by Montgomery native Craig Brazell.

Who would have guessed that just a few hours later, Moore would be competing with Jay Leno for airtime on local NBC affiliate, WSFA-TV?

"I don't know if you ever conserve anything," Moore said of whether he held back in the home run derby. "I definitely tried to hit some home runs, but for whatever reason, I'm not very good at home run derbies. Last year at Daytona, I think I hit the same amount as I did today."

Unofficially, that amount was one. Brazell and Chattanooga's Joey Votto, the Southern League's leader in roundtrippers with 19, battled it out in the final round with the former (a Dodgers prospect) coming out ahead.

Moore's 14 home runs are second most in the league this season. He launched two towering shots in the game. The first was a fifth-inning line drive rocket down the right field line off Biscuits all-star Jim Magrane that left the stadium. In the seventh, Moore sent an Ehren Wasserman offering to straight-away center that just cleared the 401-foot sign.

"You never know what to expect in these games," Moore said. "You go out and compete and do your best every at-bat or every play in the field ... I got a fastball both times. The second home run, the ball was a little more out over the plate."

Moore is hitting .278 at Double-A this season. Being traded by the Tigers is the best thing that's happened to him. After hitting below .240 in his final two years with Detroit's farm system, the first-round draft pick from 2002 has back-to-back all-star nods as a Cubs minor leaguer.

"To be honest, Scotty's hit some balls hard during the season that would be home runs at any park besides Jackson, Tennessee," Jaxx skipper and Northern Division manager Pat Listach said.

"In a smaller ballpark like this, he does what he's been doing. He hits the ball consistently hard, puts the barrel on the ball. At home, that 401-foot fly ball is an out. It's good to see him take advantage of the situation."

Moore's showing seemed to carry out the message left to this year's all-star crop by guest keynote speaker, Gerry Hunsicker.

The former Houston Astros' general manager who is now Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for Tampa Bay (Montgomery's parent club) addressed players and media at a customary game day luncheon and banquet held prior to the start of the day's festivities.

"Baseball is in a very dark period right now," Hunsicker told the audience, referring to the obvious. "You all can change that."

All Moore knows is that he's swinging the bat well, and striking out fewer times in the process. He whiffed 60 times in the first two months of the season, but has shown better plate discipline of late, his coaches say.

"We've talked a lot about his strikeouts throughout the year and I think a lot of it has to do with experience," Jaxx hitting coach Tom Beyers said. "He's gone through the league at least once now. The real prospects are the ones that figure out the league the more the season goes on."

The left-handed hitting Moore also has five multi-hit games since June 30. He is 10-for-30 over his last eight games, not counting Monday night's contest. He leads the Jaxx with 21 doubles and 50 RBIs.

To go with his stellar night at the plate, Moore also made some good plays on the diamond. He fielded a screaming grounder from Mobile's Luis Cruz and followed through with a clean throw to first for an inning-ending out to close the seventh.

"He's outstanding defensively," said Listach. "Don't count the number of errors [15] and then gauge his defense, because he has saved us more times than not."

Moore recognizes the potential stepping stone an event like the Southern League All-Star Game provides. Last year's game MVP, Jeremy Hermida, was promoted to Florida afterward and is battling for 2006 National League Rookie of the Year Honors with the Marlins.

Moore would obviously like to somehow follow in his footsteps.

"It's something you think about a little bit," he said. "But I have to go out every day and still take care of my business. Hopefully, everything will work out."

A packed crowd of 7,454 saw eight of the Jaxx nine all-star selections see playing time. Left-hander J.R. Mathes was the only Jaxx player not to make an appearance in the game.

Right-hander Juan Mateo started for the Northern Division and pitched one inning for the win. He threw fastballs clocked between 88-90 mph on the park's radar gun and ended with 15 pitches; 13 strikes.

Pitchers Chris Shaver and Rocky Cherry later succeeded Mateo, and both threw the standard one inning.

The 26-year-old Cherry made only three starts a year ago at West Tenn before his elbow blew, requiring Tommy John Surgery. Six months ago, he was working a part-time job at a Mesa-area Home Depot in Arizona.

Now, Cherry is 4-1 from relief with a 1.93 ERA in 46-plus innings, and both the right-hander and Listach said that Cherry's fastball has been clocked as high as 97 mph this season.

"That gun tonight was three to four miles slower," Listach said. "Mateo doesn't throw 88 to 89. He throws 92 to 94. I guarantee you Cherry was throwing 95, 96 or up. He was mid-90s, I guarantee it."

Second baseman Eric Patterson arrived late after catching a Monday flight from Pittsburgh, where he was named to the annual All-Star Futures Game. He came into the game in the bottom of the seventh as a defensive replacement for Tennessee's Danny Richar.

With a league-high 12 players selected to the game (three of which were unable to serve following promotions), the Jaxx started four players total. OF Chris Walker hit second and finished 1-for-3 with a run scored while OF Nic Jackson was hitless in three at-bats.

The second half of Southern League play begins Wednesday when the Jaxx make the plus two-hour drive southwest to Mobile for a five-game series against the BayBears, who hosted last year's all-star event.

The 2007 Southern League All-Star Game will be held in Pearl, Miss., home of the Southern Division Braves.

Photos from the festivities will be added to player pages shortly.

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