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Christian Moore close to becoming a Tennessee baseball icon at CWS
Christian Moore close to becoming a Tennessee baseball icon at CWS

OMAHA, Nebraska – Christian Moore might be crazy.

The Tennessee baseball second baseman has thought about this idea before. He leans forward in a large green leather chair on the second floor of the Omaha Marriott Downtown and rests his forearms on the table.

He thinks about it again.

“I don’t know if it’s because I play for Tony Vitello and he instilled that in me, or if it’s God’s gift, or if I’m just that ambitious and crazy,” Moore said this week. “But I just hate being mediocre.”

Crazy or not, everything that makes Moore tick has brought him to this stage of the College World Series. His unstoppable pursuit of greatness – and being the greatest – culminated in the best offensive season in Tennessee history and the program’s first national championship.

Over the course of a twenty-minute conversation, Moore’s madness becomes clear. But it is not insanity. It is extraordinary.

How Christian Moore encouraged the desire for greatness

Moore’s head is teeming with plans to achieve great things. The idea of ​​being anything less than the best is beyond his comprehension.

“I never want to be average in this sport,” Moore said. “I want to be the best there ever was at every moment. It’s been that way since I was a kid. I just hate being mediocre.”

Moore has long had a desire to be great.

He learned to hate losing by competing against his brother CJ, seven years older, and as a freshman at Tennessee, he learned to temper his intensity under the watchful tutelage of Trey Lipscomb, whose interior pace is noticeably slower but whose 2022 performance may have been Tennessee’s best offensive season prior to Moore’s.

Moore has unlocked new levels of his game by listening and adapting to ensure his strengths are strengths and don’t work against him. He analyzes situations in a way that has his teammates compared to Andre Lipcius, Vitello’s first superstar who used his technical mind to mentally outmaneuver opponents.

Moore allowed himself to become less of an athlete and more of a warrior, leading Tennessee’s strong team.

“It’s made me a person I didn’t think I could become,” Moore said. “Now I am. And I love it.”

Moore’s success this season is unparalleled. He hit a program-record 33 home runs, giving him a career-best 60 home runs. He is the third player in SEC history to win the SEC Triple Crown, helping Tennessee to the second-most home runs in NCAA history.

Moore has performed at his best when it matters and is enjoying what that has meant for the Vols this season

Moore wants to feel the crowd against him, the opponent wishing him a moment of frustration. When a player cheers him on from the dugout or a pitcher looks him in the eye, he transforms into a different force.

“As soon as you start talking to me, I’m paralyzed and the dog just keeps going,” Moore said. “You really want to see me fail. But I don’t.”

Moore can’t imagine failing in those moments. He can’t explain what happened when he hit a cycle in the opening game of the College World Series against Florida State. He felt his body take control, just like when he hit a three-run homer game against Kentucky in early May.

Tennessee would have lost those games if Moore hadn’t been brilliant. It won because its heart burned to be great.

“The drive to be great made me special,” Moore said.

What Christian Moore wants to achieve with his baseball legacy in Tennessee

Moore pondered Tennessee’s flight from Omaha to Knoxville in June 2023. He racked his brain over how the last two seasons ended.

The 2022 season ended with the pain of not advancing to the College World Series. The 2023 season ended abruptly after three games in Omaha.

Moore still had a year to feel something different.

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“I didn’t want to be like the 2022 team and I didn’t want to be like the 2023 team,” Moore said. “I wanted to be better. As a team, I wanted us to be better. I wanted us to finish our season happy.”

Moore gave his mission a different ending.

He knew he had to win, and winning is what matters to him. He considers Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to be the greatest baseball player of all time. It’s not about Jeter’s accomplishments. It’s about him winning five World Series titles.

“When you’re the greatest of all time, you’ve won victories,” Moore said.

Moore has 159 wins in Tennessee. Two more would cement his status as a Tennessee baseball legend. He lists names like Todd Helton and Chris Burke who came before him. They top the list of Vols greats for him. Moore also includes Drew Gilbert. Gilbert is the one who impressed upon Moore that you win, you keep going, and you win again.

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“I’m not going to lie,” Moore said. “It’s a tough list to be at the top of. But if I could, I would want to.”

Moore has at most three games left to showcase his skills when the Vols (58-12) face Texas A&M (52-13) for the national title starting Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). After that, he’s done in Tennessee and people have to decide where he fits in Vols history.

He hopes the comments will lead to a consensus: “He’s a national champion. He’s a winner. He’s the greatest of all time – in Tennessee,” Moore said.

It may sound crazy. But that’s Moore.

Mike Wilson covers athletics at the University of Tennessee. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilsonIf you like Mike’s reporting, consider a digital subscription that gives you access to all content.

By Liam