Maitland native Max Moroff got the call up of a lifetime, and now he’s doing work in the Big Leagues.
In his first at-bat of the game, and with runners on second and third, it was Max Moroff’s chance to end the night.
Just a little more than 60 feet away was Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Jared Hughes — a former teammate whom Moroff had seen pitch many times before.
Moroff knew Hughes would try to drop in his heavy sinkerball, so it was just a matter of waiting and trying to stay inside the ball and avoid the groundout.
Just as he had predicted, Moroff saw the sinker coming, and while he got jammed up a bit, was able to get enough to drop the ball right in front of the centerfielder to give the Pirates a 3-2 win at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
“I ran to first base and put my hand in the air — I looked back and the whole team was running after me,” Moroff said. “I threw my helmet up in the air, and I think (Gregory) Polanco picked me up and everyone was smacking my helmet. It was crazy.”
It was the first walk-off for the Maitland native, who was born in Winter Park, and a highlight of his young MLB career so far.
Through the 46 games he has played in since early May, Moroff has 19 hits in 100 at-bats — accounting for 13 runs, three dingers and 14-RBI. His stat line with a bat in his hand currently sits at .190/.274/.584.
MOVIN’ ON UP
Since he graduated from Trinity Prep in 2012, Moroff has seen his share of time in the Pirates’ farm system after being drafted in the 16th round (496 overall).
Right out of school, Moroff was sent to Bradenton to play rookie ball for the GCL Pirates, where he won a championship in his first year. Not only was it his first taste of professional ball, but also served as an introduction to the diverse culture of the players themselves.
“That was a cool experience — I was one of only five guys that was speaking English on the team, so that was a little culture shock, but that’s just how baseball is,” Moroff said. “I learned some Spanish my first year so I could talk to those guys.”
The following season, Moroff set off to play Class-A ball in West Virginia. Although he struggled a bit defensively, that did not stop him from moving up in his third year of minor league ball — which proved to be a turning point for the young player.
It was the move to High-A Bradenton in 2014 that Moroff was moved over to second base from shortstop, a position he had been utilized in his entire baseball career.
“I think that was a good move for me and the organization,” Moroff said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had a really good defensive season that year and I hit OK.”
From Bradenton, Moroff found himself in Altoona playing for the Pirates’ Double-A squad for the 2015 season, which would be a big year for him as he was added to the Pirates’ 40-man roster — the group of players who are eligible to be added to a team’s active 25-man roster.
Moroff followed his successful season in Altoona with a season long stint with the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians, during which he was called up to the Bigs for the very first time.
After a short four-day stay as a Pirate where he was not able to manage a single hit, Moroff was sent right back to Indianapolis. It was a pretty big disappointment for him, but at the same time, it provided a good kick in the gut to get better.
“It’s just a mindset that when you’re down there — you just have to do everything you can to get back up,” Moroff said. “Work on whatever you need to work on, or if the coaches up here had any suggestions I’d work on that. This is the highest level of baseball, so you have to do everything you can.”
That drive to improve his game pushed him to his best Minor League season to date and saw Moroff brought back up back in June where, outside of 10 days of Triple-A ball, he has played ever since.
Instead of living the hard life of a Minor League player, he now gets to play against future Hall of Famers such as Ichiro Suzuki and All-Stars such as Giancarlo Stanton, while playing alongside high caliber talent in Andrew McCutchen and David Freese in front of stadium packed crowds.
So far through the Major League season Moroff has been able to live the dream of many kids, but the job also has come with some changes – most notably going from a starter to a utility player coming off the bench.
Despite the challenges faced, Moroff hasn’t let that get in the way of enjoying the game that he grew up loving since his playing days with Maitland Little League.
“I want to help this team in whatever way I can, whether that’s coming off the bench or going out there every day,” Moroff said. “It honestly doesn’t matter to me — it’s whatever the team wants, and I’m going to do my best at whatever position that I am in.”