Getting to know Bill Moore is not a long process. Translation? What you see is what you get.
There are no hidden agendas, no secrets, no candy-coating. Few if any filters. Plain and simple, you’ll never have to ask what’s on Moore’s mind. He’ll tell you first.
Moore demonstrated that on a mild 102-degree afternoon Wednesday when the 74-year-old manager of the Wasco Reserves, a first-year team in the Pecos League, addressed his players for 20 minutes on the field before batting practice.
The first topic? Fundamentals. Making contact at the plate, moving runners along and having an approach when you step into the batter’s box.
“This is the first time all year that I’ve raised my voice to that team,” said Moore, who has been coaching or managing baseball in some capacity since 1968. “It’s time to get them to accept some accountability. It’s not the umpires fault. It’s not the sun in your eyes fault. It’s not the coaches fault, although he may be a dumb bastard, it’s your own fault. You strike out twice, three times in a game, you have no business being out there, accept the consequences. You’re not going to play.”
Moore’s words must have had an impact.
Fresh off a miserable all-around performance in an 11-2 loss to the High Desert Yardbirds on Tuesday, when the team committed seven errors, struck out 15 times and had just four hits, the Reserves turned things around. The team collected 19 hits in a 16-10 victory over the Tucson Saguaros just 24 hours later.
Wasco did strike out 11 times in the game, but Moore can only do so much from his ballbucket outside the Reserves' dugout. The victory was the team’s first since the All-Star break, snapping a 14-game skid. The Reserves are just 4-18 in July heading into Thursday night’s late game and 16-37 overall, assuring Moore’s first losing season since his first year managing in the Pecos League in 2012.
“Bill’s just a genuine guy,” said Wasco infielder Austin Hoffman, who has played for Moore in three different cities the past three years. “He’s gonna tell you like it is. He’s really honest and he’s not going to try to sell me on something or lie to me. If someone does call him, he talks to them, he’s going to tell them the truth. And that’s what I like from my coach.”
Heading into Friday’s 7:45 game at Sam Lynn Ballpark against the defending champion Bakersfield Train Robbers, Wasco has just nine games left this season, but Moore continues to try to push all the right buttons for his team.
“You’ve got to put the ball in play,” said Moore, who managed Bakersfield during its inaugural season in 2017. “If you hit a 60-hopper to short with a man on third, he might score. If you strike out, he ain’t going to score. Unless you get lucky and get a passed ball. (I have) 50 years of experience. If you’re smart enough to listen, some of it’s BS, but some of it’s right. The stuff I was talking about, how middle infielders should handle the throw … I played middle infield, I know the right way to do the stuff, and if you choose to ignore it …”
Moore’s no nonsense approach was forged early in his hometown of Tempe, Ariz., where he learned the value of hard work and accountability from his father and grandfather, who first introduced him to baseball.
“I believe to be a good baseball team, you have to be disciplined,” said Moore, who has learned a lot from several coaches and managers along the way, including current Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon. He met Maddon in the early 1970s when they were both working for the Cubs organization and has continued a friendship with him. “You have to do things the right way, not once in a while. Show up on time, not ‘well I had to do my laundry,’ ‘my dishes were dirty,’ ‘my girlfriend was on the phone and I couldn’t get off.’ You have to have discipline to be on time. And you have to have discipline not to chase a breaking ball in the dirt with two strikes. Disciplined teams are going to play better baseball. Period.”
After earning a spot on varsity as a sophomore in high school, Moore played three seasons at shortstop. After graduating in 1963, he played a season for Phoenix College before his career took a side route.
“I wasn’t a full-time guy, but I played quite a bit,” said Moore of his year in Phoenix. “I went back for fall baseball my next year, just as Vietnam was warming up a bit. But I got a love letter from Uncle Sam and I was a first-round draft pick.”
After enlisting in the U.S. Navy, Moore was trained as a radio operator and shipped to Vietnam in 1964. During his 38-month deployment, Moore saw more than his share of action, and was injured in at least one memorable encounter.
“I was carrying that radio, and this guy came out of the jungle and hit me from behind,” said Moore, showing a silver-dollar sized scar from a stab wound on his upper left thigh. “We rolled around in the dirt for a bit. I made it home, and I don’t think he did, in fact I know he didn’t.”
After a week in the hospital, Moore was returned to action.
“It was early (in the conflict), and we were kinda getting our (butt) kicked at that time,” Moore said. “And if you were a critical radio communicator, they didn’t give you a lot of choices. Sew you up a little bit, put a butterfly (bandage) or two on it and get back out there. It’s not because I’m tough, it’s because they told me to.”
Once he was discharged, Moore returned home with hopes of playing baseball again at Phoenix College. Unfortunately, his skills had admittedly deteriorated during his time away from the game, and he didn’t make the team. But he was offered a position as a student assistant, the start of what has turned into a 52-year coaching career.
“Bill expects guys to play a certain way,” said Andrew Dunn, commissioner of the Pecos League. “He expects fielders to make the routine play, a catcher that’s solid, and players that are going to contribute at the plate. He’s very attentive, and if I’m a player in the Pecos League, I’d want to have a manager like Bill than some 25-year-old manager. He can handle the grind of playing every day and the pressure of having to do everything. He doesn't have pitching coaches and assistants. He has to do it himself, and Bill likes it that way.”
From youth baseball, to high school, college, spring leagues and independent leagues, Moore has coached at every level imaginable.
“I love to play ball,” Moore said. “I mean it’s that simple. People ask when am I going to retire … I just feel blessed that I get to come to the yard that day, hang out and see if we can win a ball game.”
Moore’s career has continued full force, even though his body hasn’t always cooperated.
In 2009, Moore had quadruple bypass surgery on his heart, and was hospitalized again earlier this year for heart trouble.
“They told me at some point, I’d probably develop something they call AFib,” said Moore of Atrial fibrillation, a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. “I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it happened to me when I came out to Bakersfield for that Western League. It whacked me, I mean it really beat me up pretty good.”
Moore returned home to Mesa, Ariz., five miles from where he grew up.
“I haven’t come very far in life,” joked Moore joked.
“I went into the hospital shortly after I got home and it wasn’t getting better, it was getting worse. I couldn’t breathe, went in the hospital and they messed around with me, let me out, put me back in, and after three times, the day before I drove over here to start coaching, I was still out of rhythm. But I was still gonna (determined to) come to Wasco, so my heart doctor said let me try something and see if it helps. So he shocked me twice and got me in rhythm. They let me out about 6 that evening, and I got up the next morning and was on the road to Wasco (a 12-hour trip).”
Although Moore says his health has been good this season, losing has admittedly taken a toll on him physically and mentally.
“I’ve had good energy all summer long,” said Moore, whose heart issues and ensuing hospital stay made it difficult for him to hold onto commitments from players he recruited for this year's team in Wasco. “And I feel pretty good. I’m tired, but that’s a normal occurrence this time of the year (with the season winding down). And we’re losing, that makes you tired. That makes you mentally drained, exhausted.”
In seven previous seasons in the Pecos League, Moore was a combined 255-190, including a 41-18 season at Tucson last year. He spent four years in Santa Fe, guiding the team to the 2014 league championship, then led Garden City, Kans. to the Northern Division title before managing Bakersfield in its inaugural season in 2017.
“Bill has a lot of stories and a lot of knowledge,” Hoffman said. “He’s very wise. He’s dealt with a lot more things than a lot of people have dealt with. Being in Vietnam, being a baseball coach and being around it so long. Knowing everyone he knows, he’s a character. He’s a great guy. He really is.
“There’s been (a few times) when he’s stayed out in the heat so long that he’s almost passed out. From wanting to be out here instead of worrying about his own life, his own health. I think he’ll keep pushing along, and as long he’s still physically able, he’ll do it until he can’t anymore.”