Homer's Run

Sometimes baseball is about more than the game.

One of the great things about sports is that you never know where a story will take you. An account of a couple of professional football running backs, one supernaturally talented, the other a plugger, can morph into the life lessons offered in Brian's Song. More often than you would expect, the topic of athletics is like a front porch, an entry point into the place where the story really lives.

Kevin Moore has a passion for baseball. Now in his early forties, he still displays enthusiasm and a good sense of humor when he speaks of his sport. But there's more to him than that, and at times he seems to be struggling to keep things under control; he can literally shake with the effort.

A solo-practice attorney, Moore toils in a small, cluttered, two-room office in a set of old duplexes in the northwest part of Denver. In addition to the standard collection of legal accoutrements -- shelves of leather-bound tort tomes, framed university diplomas -- his office is festooned with baseball memorabilia.

Kevin Moore has found balance in baseball.
Eric Bellamy
Kevin Moore has found balance in baseball.

The collection -- stuffed mascots, programs, pennants, souvenir bats -- is a reminder of specific times and places. Several times over the past half-dozen years, Kevin and his wife and two kids, a girl and a boy, have piled into the family car to explore different parts of the country that have their own unique minor leagues. Along the way, the Moores take in a handful of games, watching as many teams as possible. After a couple of weeks, they end the trip with a stop at the nearest major-league park to watch the big boys play. Everyone has a ball watching ball.

Kevin is one of those baseball fans who love the game intuitively and unconditionally, with the same intensity of feeling that some childless people reserve for their pets. Everything about baseball is a source of endless fascination for him, and whatever character flaws the game has revealed in recent years, he has been willing to forgive.

"It's the fairest game ever invented, isn't it?" he says in hushed tones. "Everyone gets a chance. It's got strategy, pace, lingo. It's the only game in which the defense has the ball. You become friends with the people you watch it with because of the slow pace. It's a thinking man's game.

"Baseball's the game," he concludes reverentially. "I've been smitten with it ever since I could throw a ball."

You might say he was born to it. His father, Ralph Moore, was a longtime sports writer for the Denver Post. Ralph used to take Kevin to Mile High Stadium while he covered training-wheel clubs -- the Bears and then the Zephyrs -- before the Rockies replaced them in 1993.

The Moores were a big, prominent Irish Catholic clan: six brothers and two sisters. Sports in general, and baseball in particular, was one of the things that drew them all together. When the family attended a game in force, they would take up an entire row.

The kids enjoyed playing sports, too. Mike, the second oldest, was the football star, making it to college ball before running out of gas. "He was our athlete, a big, strong, fast guy," Kevin says. "Everything you'd want in a big brother."

Kevin himself attended many places of athletic worship, but he prayed hardest to the baseball god. He played third base and catcher. From ages nine through twelve, he participated in what is now known as the Connie Mack League. For a while, he was part of a talented traveling team, taking the field on diamonds across the metro area and, later, in Utah and New Mexico.

Cruelly, though, as Kevin got older, the sport he loved more than anything ended up rejecting him as unsuitable. "I never made my high school team," he says. "I got cut four years running at Regis High School. I kept going out as a matter of principle." Unable to go steady with his first choice, he played the field, running cross-country, participating in basketball, lettering in golf.

During college, then law school, Kevin continued to grow away from baseball. When Denver was finally awarded its major-league club, he'd catch the games at Coors Field. But it wasn't very satisfying.

For Kevin, whose love of the game was simple and pure, the big-time players appeared disconnected from baseball. They were joyless, serious men who seemed to be taking the field for all the wrong reasons. Kevin resented them because they didn't respect baseball the way he did. A Rockies season-ticket holder since the team's arrival in Denver, he eventually decided not to renew his seats.

Kevin's love for baseball ultimately was greater than his dissatisfaction with its professionals, and while the major league left him uninspired, he gradually returned to baseball. In some ways, it was out of his control. When his son started swinging a tiny bat at a T-ball in Little League, the sight made him remember why he loved the game so deeply.

Sabrina, his wife, had never been a big fan. But after watching the children fall in love with baseball -- "and listening to my endless droning on about the Great Game," Kevin adds -- she soon became a devotee, almost in spite of herself.

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