When Jim Moran’s son, Patrick, found his father was going to step down as the manager of Blue Springs Post 499 Fike – after a 33-year managerial career that saw him win more than 900 games – he was stunned.
He lightened the mood at the Moran household when he told his father, “That ruins everything. We had the third base coach’s box (at Fike’s home field, now named Jim Moran Field at Hidden Valley Park) reserved for your burial plot.”
Patrick’s has his old man’s wit and charm, and American Legion Baseball in Blue Springs will have a different look next season as Moran will be spending more time with his wife Kathy and their children and grandchildren.
“I think Kathy was a little surprised too,” said Moran, who was 996-715 as Fike’s manager and 1,060-715 over a 37-year career that included a stint as an assistant coach. “I knew it was coming. I couldn’t have told you during the season that this was going to be it, but things change, and the timing was right.
“I’ve been associated with some great kids, their parents, we’ve had a wonderful sponsor with Fike and the memories. Oh, don’t get me started on the memories or we’ll be here all day – there are just too many to count.
“But this was a great team and we had a great season and I couldn’t be any prouder to walk away from Fike and American Legion baseball with the team we had this season.”
The final game was Fike’s 11-5 loss to the Sedalia Post 642 Travelers in the Zone 2 postseason tournament championship game on Sunday in Sedalia.
“I was joking with the fans as I went out to warm up our pitcher for one last time,” Moran told The Examiner, “and the sun was going down in the West and my career was coming to an end, that was a pretty cool way to say goodbye – even though we lost the game. We had some kids suffer from heat exhaustion and we were out of pitching, but the guys never gave up, never.”
Fike finished this season with a 36-11 record and a Zone 2 regular-season championship.
He didn’t enjoy a winning season every year over the past three decades, but he was a manager who cared more about this players than the final score.
“I know things are going to change now that I’m done,” he said, chuckling. “For instance, our kids didn’t wear the open pants (that oftentimes touched the ground). They didn’t wear their hats backwards and they didn’t wear flat-bill hats.
“I’m old school, and my players were old school. And to be honest with you, we got along just fine. I tell you what, when I see a former player – a kid from a team that won a championship or a kid who didn’t win many games – and they come up and talk to me in the store, at the bank, after a game, that’s what it’s all about.
“Like I said earlier, I can’t talk about the special games, the teams or especially the players because there are just too many of them.”
While Moran will be remembered for Fike’s great success on the field, his legacy will be the American Legion Wood Bat Invitational, which he and his late friend Ron Johnson dreamed up 28 years ago.
For years, it was the biggest wood bat tourney in the nation, bringing some of the best American Legion teams across the region to Hidden Valley Park and other area venues.
“A lot of people have asked me about the Wood Bat, and I will still be associated with that,” he said. “I guess you could say I’ll be the business manager or general manager. You won’t see me on the field again, for at least a few years, I’ll get the ball rolling. Heck, we start sending out the (Wood Bat) information to teams in September and that will be here before you know it.”
One thing that motivates Moran, who had knee replacement surgery in March, is that simple fact that he will be back in a uniform in January.
But it won’t be the familiar blue and orange he has worn more than three decades with Fike. No, he will be wearing his No. 13 alongside his sons Patrick and Jeff, as they participate in the Kansas City Royals Fantasy Camp in Surprise, Arizona.
“I went last year and had such a blast that I had to go back with my sons,” Moran said. “Hey, I’m a baseball guy. I’m always going to love the game, and to share an experience like that with my sons, well, I can’t wait.”
• Doug Lohman, who played for Moran early in his managing career, will be the new Fike manager. He recently moved back to Eastern Jackson County and was the Fike Junior Legion manager this past season.
“Having Doug here made the decision a little bit easier, Moran said. “It was almost like he came back to take over the team, even though he came back to town because of job relocation. He’s going to be a great manager and I’m so pleased he’s the guy taking over the team.”