Friday night was exciting enough for the Robinson High baseball team. The Northern Region championship was at stake and as the Rams took the field against Marshall, their hearts pounded with anticipation.
For Robinson catcher Mark Moeller the moment was extra special. The site of the game was Fairfax High Jim Moeller Field, named in honor of Fairfax's former baseball coach -- and Mark's father.
"I try to play good anytime I play there," said the younger Moeller. "It's kind of interesting and weird. Not too many people get to do that sort of thing and it really makes me proud."
But Mark isn't the only one in the family walking tall these days. Since retiring in 1981 after 25 years at Fairfax, Jim Moeller has followed area baseball from a distance. Watching Mark lead the Rams to their 1986 success has brought a new spark to the ex-coach's baseball fire. "I feel reincarnated," he said. "Watching Mark has given me a lot of gratification."
There's plenty to feel good about. Robinson took a 16-6 record into the championship game, which was won by Marshall, 4-0. It was the versatile Moeller, however, who enabled the Rams to get that far.
A .407 hitter during the regular season, the 6-foot, 185-pound senior drove in 22 runs and set a Robinson single-season record with seven home runs.
But Rams Coach Bob Menefee feels Moeller's true value goes beyond his statistics.
"He's such a good hitter and he hits in the clutch," Menefee said. "The other kids look to him to get things done. Twice we were down two runs in the last inning and Mark hit home runs to tie the game."
Moeller's one-out homer against Woodson and two-out clout against West Springfield tied games the Rams eventually won. Menefee says "the West Springfield homer turned our season around. We were hovering around .500 and we won the next five in a row after that. It really got us going."
Moeller believes it is his baseball upbringing that gives him the confidence to respond in tough situations. He is quick to point out his father's influence -- "he was always there to help me" -- and remembers the times he used to watch his idol play.
"I used to love watching my brother Paul play. I envied him. He was the superstar of the family."
Menefee thinks these early years around baseball gave Moeller the "good baseball instincts" that are paying off today. He remembers coaching against Jim Moeller and "there was this little guy racing around the bases or taking swings in the cage after games."
It was during these early years that Moeller learned to play several different positions. An outfielder most of the season, he was moved to catcher for the playoffs, a move Moeller enjoys.
A Johnny Bench fan as a child, Moeller aspired to be a catcher. "There's action on every play and you get to run the game."
His versatility has come in handy for Robinson but has caused confusion for coaches voting for the various honors given each year to outstanding players in the area. Moeller was named to the All-Northern District and all-region teams as an outfielder and was recently selected to the all-state team with his position undetermined.
But one area in which there is no disagreement is his role as a hitter.
In a stance borrowed from George Brett, Moeller coils at the plate before ripping at the pitch in a quick, compact swing. "I just try to put the ball in play and concentrate on base hits," he said. "Lately, I've been getting jammed and I've opened up so I'll be parallel to the plate when I'm finished."
If the young man sounds like a baseball coach, wise beyond his years, it's easy to understand why.