By Lexie Churchill | Photos Provided by Dayton Moore and Staff
Growing up, baseball was a way of life. With a busy father who traveled often for his job, Dayton Moore was raised by a mom and a grandmother who loved the game with a passion, the same passion that inevitably rubbed off on him.
He realized very early on that he had the most natural ability in baseball. It wasn’t long before he was dreaming of a future in the sport.
“I can’t recall a day in my life when I haven’t thought about base- ball or dreamed about what I’d become in the game of baseball,” Moore says. “It’s something that gets instilled in you very early on in your life.”
Born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, that passion led Moore to be a fan of the closest professional team: the Kansas City Royals. With Kauffman Stadium only a few hours away, some of his earliest mem- ories consist of trips to the park decked in blue and white.
Fans tend to gravitate toward winners, and at the time the Royals were at the top of the totem pole. Their countless successful seasons established Moore’s goal to become a professional player, a dream he continued to pursue.
He wouldn’t, however, pursue it in the same geographic area, as he found himself moving several times for his dad’s job, finally landing in Illinois for junior high and high school. With every move, each new city, each new school, two things remained consistent: baseball and his faith. Although he was in and out of church growing up, his father’s influence as a man of faith made it easier to stay true to his Christian identity, an important aspect of his career to come.
With college recruitment approaching, Moore didn’t know which program he would join, but he knew what he wanted his future to hold.
“All I really wanted was to be signed,” Moore says. “I wanted to sign professionally; that was the most important thing for me. I’m not sure if it was the wisest thing, but that’s what I wanted to do; that’s where my heart was.”
His heart would take him on an unexpected route to get there. After attending a Cincinnati Reds tryout camp, the Midwest scout, Larry Smith, suggested the option of a junior college where the teams play around 100 games per season. With that in mind, Smith called his connections in the Garden City Community College program, one of the best teams in the league. Soon enough, it was a done deal.
After two years on the collegiate playing platform at GCCC, Moore moved on to sign with George Mason University in Virginia. There, his faith deepened as he was surrounded by teammates who shared the same spirituality that was “a part of who we were and who we were wanting to become.” His strengthened faith was much needed toward the end of his collegiate playing career when he recognized he would not have a professional one.
“I wasn’t good enough to continue to play; that was the harsh reality,” Moore says. “Everyone has an expiration date on their playing career. Mine came sooner than I would have liked.”
Although his playing was coming to a close, Moore could not part with the game. It was all he’d ever known. So he turned to coaching. Despite several other collegiate offers, he chose to remain at George Mason with Coach Billy Brown, whom he deeply trusted. He knew that Brown would give him the responsibility he needed to develop as a coach. And he did just that.
Moore continued to grow and thrive as a coach for five years as a Patriot. Then his career took yet another unexpected turn.
He was approached to become an area scout for the Atlanta Braves, his first Major League Baseball offer. At first, he didn’t think much of it. After all, coaching was where his heart was at the time. However, after meeting with the Braves, he agreed to take on the job, planning to return to college coaching after five years.
Before moving to Atlanta, Moore and his wife Marianne, the pre- vious breadwinner of the duo, agreed she would stay home to raise their eight-month-old daughter, Ashley. While living in Atlanta two more children would come, Avery and Robert, building a support system Moore could always lean on.
“That’s my team,” Moore says. “My team is at home.”
With his new professional team, Moore started as a scout for the Braves, moving on to complete five-and-a-half years of international work, where he traveled to Latin America to meet and watch potential players. From there he took on several different roles within the organization, and he loved each and every one. He ended up staying with the Braves for more than a decade.
Within the 12 seasons Moore experienced with the team, they earned 12 division titles, three National League championships and a World Series title in 1995. As for his family, his wife and kids were settled in, thriving in a community built of a positive network of friends, a welcoming neighborhood and a great church to keep their faith alive. With the success of the team and a comfortable life in Atlanta, it was a mystery why Moore would even consider leaving the Braves.
However, that’s just what he did in 2006 when the Royals’ General Manager position opened up. But the Royals were not the same team from Moore’s childhood memories. Initially, he met with David Glass, owner of the Royals, and his son, club president Dan Glass, to discuss the state of the franchise and their vision for its revival. At the end of the day, Moore wanted to make that vision happen.
“It was the challenge and the opportunity to build something and to create a culture that I felt would honor baseball, as well as bring an energy and expectation back to the fan base that we once knew in Kansas City,” Moore says.
Thus, he took on what was said to be one of the biggest challenges in baseball at the time: winning in Kansas City. However, this was not the program’s immediate goal. Moore and his colleagues knew the road to the crown would be an extended process.
“Ultimately, you want to win a world championship, but we knew we had to be fo- cused on making good decisions each and every day,” Moore says. “We needed to wake up every day with the focus, the energy to make good decisions on that particular day to improve our team. We couldn’t be so focused on the outcome that we would abandon the process — just try to get better each day. And that’s what we did.”
To reach their franchise’s ultimate goal, Moore took on the mindset that everything he did mattered. There were no little decisions. He recognized any one decision he made could be the most important one.
And boy, did he make some important ones! With an accumulation of players that in- cluded Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez, the hiring of Ned Yost and several outstanding trade acquisitions, the team moved toward success every day, every season. However, it was a slow process and it was not always easy. Among the frustration of the building process, the daily criticism and the negativity, Moore’s faith helped him prevail.
“One of the things I’ve learned in this position is that there are two things you have to do every single day,” Moore says. “You have to forgive — because there’s someone writ- ing something, someone saying something perhaps trying to hurt or disrupt the morale of the organization. And you can’t quit. I’m not sure I’d be able to forgive on a day-to-day basis without my faith.”
Even with the never-quit attitude and forgiveness, Moore continues to find himself questioning whether or not he should continue.
“I’ve been in professional baseball for 22 years now, and every sin- gle year I’ve had thoughts of quitting. And this what I’ve done my whole life; it’s all I can remember doing. This is all I can remember thinking about.”
In 2013 Moore decided he had to give back to the sport that encompassed his lifelong memories. By starting the ‘C’ You in the Majors Foundation, he not only supports youth baseball, but education, families in crisis and faith-based programs and organizations as well.
The year Moore began his foundation was the same year his perse- verance began to pay off, as
the team finished with their best record in a decade and just missed out on the playoffs, a true testament to their growth. In 2014 the team made a statement when they ended the franchise’s 29-year postseason dry spell. Not only did they make the playoffs, but after the Wild Card game that set the city on fire, the team went on to win their next seven postseason games and make it to the World Series. With a streak like that, the outcome of losing in Game 7 of the World Series was devastating.
“It was extremely disappointing,” Moore says. “With all of those years in Atlanta, I knew how difficult it was to make it to the playoffs, let alone to the World Series. There’s no consolation in saying we got close. It’s an incredible, desperate hurting feeling that we had come so close and we didn’t win. There’s no way to describe it. But certainly you know that in time the scar would heal.”
While the pain continued to heal, Moore continued to work, making valuable decisions each day in hopes that they would contribute to the team’s success the next season. After a few key trades and a third-straight winning season, the team was back in the World Series in 2015. This time, they took the crown.
After so many years of faith-based choices, forgiveness and family support, Moore had done the seemingly unattainable by winning a World Series in Kansas City. He’d accomplished the ultimate goal of anyone who’s ever worked in the game, a goal he had always wished for. He simply did it from the other side of the program.
Dayton Moore no longer had to dream about it. •