Orioles infield trio plays together, stays together

Since Little League days, these three have formed a special bond

February 28, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

SARASOTA, FLA. — At some point this spring, Justin Turner will jog out to second base, Blake Davis will head to shortstop and Scott Moore will go to third. For all three, it will serve as another opportunity to impress Oriole officials, and another reminder that they're still playing together a dozen years later.

Turner, Davis and Moore were teammates when they were all 12 or 13-years old on the Orange County (Calif.) Cardinals Connie Mack Little League team. They're in spring training with the Orioles and marveling at how that came to be.

"I think the stars aligned for all of us to end up here in the same organization all these years later," Turner said.

Said Moore: "You look over and see guys you played with growing up when pro ball wasn't even a thought in your mind. You weren't even in high school yet, and now you're in your mid-20s playing with each other again. It's just crazy."

Only Davis, 26, was originally drafted by the Orioles. They took the shortstop in the fourth round in 2006. Moore, 26, was the eighth overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Detroit Tigers, who traded him to the Chicago Cubs in 2005. In 2007, the Cubs sent Moore and reliever Rocky Cherry to the Orioles for right-hander Steve Trachsel.

Turner, 25, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2006 and traded to the Orioles two years later in the Ramon Hernandez deal. Davis remembers that day vividly as he was sitting on the couch in his California home when the trade reached the ESPN news scroll.

"I saw it and I was like, 'No way,' " Davis recalled. "It's a small world. It's weird that things kind of work out that way, and it's funny because we're all competing [for a job]. They are your friends but you have to battle with them."

Davis is the only one of the three not to make it to the big leagues. His shot at cracking last year's roster ended when he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot late in the spring. Moore played in 21 games with the Orioles in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, but torn ligaments in his right thumb prematurely ended his 2009 campaign. Turner played in 12 games with the Orioles last season after hitting .300 in 108 games for Triple-A Norfolk.

Davis, Moore and Turner are in big league spring training for a second straight year, but the trio will likely start the season in Norfolk, and continue a friendship that began on the well-manicured baseball diamonds of Southern California.

Davis and Turner became teammates with the Cardinals when they were 11 years old. Moore, who had been on an opposing team, joined them a year later. The three have been on-again, off-again teammates since.

They were all on the 2000 Long Beach Cardinals team that went to McKinney, Tex., and finished second in the Mickey Mantle World Series, losing 1-0 in the championship game. Two years later, Davis and Turner were still on the team when it won the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M.

Davis and Turner went on to form the double-play combination at Cal State Fullerton. Moore had also accepted a scholarship to play for the Titans, but those plans changed when he was drafted by the Tigers, and was offered a $2.3 million signing bonus.

"They still were pretty close," said John Turner, Justin's father and one of the coaches on the Cardinals. "In college, when Scotty was home, he was always out with those guys."

Randy Vanderhook, who ran the Long Beach Cardinals, wasn't surprised that all three cracked the professional ranks.

"They were pretty much diamond rats," Vanderhook said. "They hung out at the baseball fields all the time and when we had the older teams, they'd come out and be bat boys and just hang around. They took a real interest in the game and they worked hard at it."

Vanderhook said that more than 75 alumnae of the Long Beach program have gone on to play professionally. That list includes J.T. Snow, Sean Burroughs, Gerald Laird, Bobby Crosby and Ricky Romero, the Toronto Blue Jays pitcher who was a teammate of Turner and Davis' on the Connie Mack title-winning team and again at Cal State Fullerton.

Vanderhook was an Orioles' farmhand from 1975-1978, where he was a teammate of Eddie Murray. His son, Cory, also was a catcher in the organization in 2007, but retired because of stress fractures in both feet.

Neither father nor son cracked the big leagues with the Orioles and Vanderhook said it would be pretty special to see three of his former pupils all do it together.

"It really would be nice to see Scotty at third, Blake at short and Justin at second in a major league game," Vanderhook said. "They are three kids that grew up together. They deserve it because they worked extremely hard and nobody gave them anything."

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