Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

New Zealand awaits Chris Moates, who will be putting down his big bat and picking up a hammer later this year when he travels halfway around the world to work for Habitat for Humanity, building homes in the land of the kiwi.

That's the same Chris Moates who also will do some work in Arizona for the Make-A-Wish Foundation before he heads overseas.

That's Moates, who -- after having a monster season at Deerfield-Windsor as a senior -- will take a year off from school and baseball to pursue those humanitarian efforts. That's what makes sense to Moates.

It's just the way he is.

"I'll tell you the best thing about Chris Moates,'' DWS baseball coach Rod Murray began, "it's his character.''

It showed on the diamond, where Moates was more than a leader -- and that's just one of the many reasons why he's been named the 2011 Albany Herald Ray Knight Player of the Year for baseball.

"He is such a great team player. The biggest thing about him is how unselfish he is,'' Murray said. "His character is unbelievable, just unbelievable.''

So were his numbers.

Moates hit .603 for the season, belted eight home runs and was the ace for DWS, going 9-3 and leading the Knights to the GISA Class AAA state title series. He drove in 49 runs in 29 games, and dominated on the mound, where he had a 1.85 ERA and struck out 74 batters in 61 innings.

He was a clear choice as the 2011 Albany Herald Ray Knight Player of the Year for baseball.

"He had the kind of season you dream of,'' said Murray, who watched Moates put together a 14-game hitting streak and lead the team in hitting and power numbers. "He hit for average and for power. That's a plus-plus. He had a tremendous year last year and then came back and was even better this season.''

Moates, who transferred from Lee County to DWS before his junior year, had a big season last spring, but he was disappointed at the end of the year when Deerfield lost to Tattnall Square in the quarterfinals of the GISA Class AAA state tournament.

Give Tatnall pitcher DeAndre Smelter an assist for Moates' big senior season. Smelter, who dominated teams when he was in high school before bring drafted in the 14th round of the Major League Baseball Draft, beat DWS and shut down Moates last year.

Smelter struck out Moates in that game, and it stayed with him.

"He's an amazing pitcher,'' Moates said. "It just drove me crazy because I couldn't catch up with his fastball. That kind of opened my eyes. I knew I had to shorten my swing.''

Moates was determined to change his swing, making it shorter, quicker -- and yet still full of power.

"I really worked on my bat-speed, shortening up my swing so I could hit for a better average,'' Moates said. "I knew after facing some pitching at the end of the year last year that I had to make an adjustment. I was having trouble getting around on the fastball. I worked hard in the offseason to get ready for this season.''

All of Moates' numbers improved, including his ability to make contact. He struck out only four times all year.

"That's pretty impressive,'' Murray said. "That's a testament to how hard he worked.''

Murray believes Moates can be even better.

"He's still growing physically. He is still getting stronger and still filling out physically,'' Murray said. "And you can see what kind of young man he is, going to (the Make-A-Wish foundation and working for Habitat for Humanity). I think that's great. You have a young man who is giving back. He's a servant.''

Moates was just as impressive in the classroom, and has been getting attention from Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Penn, as well as Duke. The plan is to take a year off and do humanitarian work, and then go on to college and play baseball.

"He's getting pretty good looks from Ivy League schools,'' Murray said. "I'm sure he will end up at an Ivy league school or Duke, because he is so academically driven.''

Moates' numbers may be overwhelming, but that's not what he will remember from his last year of high school baseball.

"This was the most fun I've ever had playing baseball in my life,'' Moates said. "This team was so close. We had so much team chemistry and great coaches. I've been playing baseball since I was I played T-ball at 6, and this is the most fun I've ever had with any team.''

That's Moates, the ultimate team player on what he considered the ultimate team.

"We were always helping out each other, the sophomores, juniors, seniors -- all as one. We were very close. We all had each other's back. We played baseball together and we were always hanging out a lot on the weekends. We did a little bit of everything. We were always together. It was a real good year for me. I had a lot of confidence at the plate,'' he said. "And we had so much fun.''

It was a season to remember for Moates, who left his own indelible mark.

"He has a lot of talent on and off the field,'' Murray said. "He's a neat kid. They don't come around like him very often.''