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Reigning Ray Knight POY Moates taking talents to Yale

2011 Albany Herald Ray Knight Baseball Player of the Year Chris Moates, front row, center, smiles during his signing ceremony with Yale on Thursday. Moates was joined by, front row, from left, sisters Ashley and Brittany, mother Valerie, father Ken and youngest sister Anna, as well as, back row, from left, Moates’ summer league coach Jim Lovejoy, DWS assistant coaches Melvin Kinslow and Ty Kinslow and Knights head coach Rod Murray. (mike.phillips@albanyherald.com)

2011 Albany Herald Ray Knight Baseball Player of the Year Chris Moates, front row, center, smiles during his signing ceremony with Yale on Thursday. Moates was joined by, front row, from left, sisters Ashley and Brittany, mother Valerie, father Ken and youngest sister Anna, as well as, back row, from left, Moates’ summer league coach Jim Lovejoy, DWS assistant coaches Melvin Kinslow and Ty Kinslow and Knights head coach Rod Murray. (mike.phillips@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Valerie Moates couldn’t help but notice the picture on the wall.

It was one of those drop-dead images you don’t forget.

“We were visiting Yale,’’ she said. “And they had a picture on the wall of President Bush when he was the captain of the baseball team at Yale (together with) Babe Ruth.’’

They know all about images that stay with you in the Moates family, where their oldest son, Chris, is leaving an indelible image of his own at Deerfield-Windsor.

The Moates family — Valerie and Ken and their three daughters, Ashley, Brittany and Anna — and most of Deerfield was on hand Thursday afternoon in the library to celebrate Chris Moates’ signing with Yale.

There weren’t any photos of the Bushes or the Babe on Thursday, just smiles and congratulations and a ton of snapshots of Chris, who had a smile from here to New England when he slipped on a blue Yale baseball cap.

It was a perfect fit.

Just like Moates.

“What you have here is a scholar, an unbelievable academic student-athlete,’’ said Deerfield-Windsor baseball coach Rod Murray, who watched Moates lead the Knights to the GISA Class AAA state title series last spring.

Murray then added: “When you think of the word scholar, you can put Chris Moates right there by it.’’

Moates will pitch and play first base at Yale, where he will major in political science with plans to go onto law school and beyond. His ceiling has no bounds.

“I never dreamed I would go to Yale,’’ Moates said. “I talked to the coaches, and when I went for a visit I fell in love with the campus and everything about Yale.’’

On the Deerfield diamond, Moates was brilliant, a superstar who was named The Herald’s Ray Knight Player of the year last spring. He was a slam-dunk choice.

After all, he batted .603 for the season, belted eight home runs and drove in 49 runs in 29 games. He was even better on the mound, where he went 9-3 with a 1.85 ERA and struck out a staggering 74 batters in just 61 innings.

He is even more staggering off the mound.

Moates, who graduated last spring with a 4.3 GPA, didn’t rush off to college. He took a year off to pursue humanitarian goals. He worked with the Big House Foundation in Alabama for almost two months, helping that organization, which works tediously to improve the needs of foster children.

Then he flew halfway across the world to build homes in New Zealand, where he was a hands-on volunteer for Habitat for Humanity.

“He is one of a kind,’’ Murray said.

Moates said he relished both working for the Big House Foundation and the unforgettable trip to New Zealand.

“I worked on building a house there,’’ he said. “I learned a lot. I did a little of everything. I just did whatever they needed me to do. It was one of the best experiences of my life. My experiences when I can help others are always the best.’’

That mindset comes from his family.

“I guess I get that from my parents,’’ he said. “New Zealand was beautiful. It was amazing. The landscape, and how diverse the terrain is there. There would be a mountain and a beach would end up next to the mountain. And the people were great. They speak English, but it’s different. A lot of times I would have to ask them to repeat things.’’

Moates came home from New Zealand before the holidays and waited until the new year to announce his decision to attend Yale.

The Yale blueprint came into focus last summer for Moates, who had several scholarship offers to play baseball. Yale was an academic choice with a baseball cherry on top.

“The academic opportunity at Yale is tremendous,’’ said Valerie Moates, who made the trip to Yale with her son and husband in August. “(Other schools) wanted him to only pitch, but they told him at Yale he could pitch and also hit. They recruited him as a two-way player.’’

Moates loves baseball, but when he was growing he never thought about playing baseball in college — and never imagined going to Yale.

“I was never going to go to school just to play baseball,’’ Moates said. “I never dreamed I would go to a school like Yale. I’m very excited. It kind of hit me after I made my decision. I didn’t grow up thinking about going to Yale, but once I visited the campus, I thought it was a good fit for me.’’