Former Western Nebraska Community College baseball player Joe Moran is achieving his dream of playing professional baseball after signing with the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association. The Saltdogs are an independent team in the American Association.
Moran, who was impressive in exhibition games before injuring his elbow, saw his first action of the season on Wednesday night in an 8-5 loss to the Kansas City T-bones. Moran was the DH in the game and finished with an RBI in five at bats.
"My whole life it has been a dream of mine to play professional baseball," Moran said. Signing with the Saltdogs means a lot. I have put in a lot of work and it feels great to see it pay off."
Moran impressed the Saltdogs in spring training this year but suffered an injury just before Opening Day, which resulted in his release. He provided a boost of speed to the lineup and smacked three doubles in the exhibition season opener against the Sioux City Explorers.
The lefty enjoyed an outstanding career at NAIA Bellevue University where he slashed .384/.423/.547 with 37 extra-base hits and 60 RBI while appearing in 104 career games. Additionally he was successful on 24 of 29 stolen base attempts, scored 94 runs, struck out just once every 10.72 plate appearances, and was near automatic in the outfield.
A key cog in the Bruins 2016 World Series run, Moran hit .444/.459/.631 that season with 19 extra-base hits and 26 RBI after joining the team on March 22. Moran went on to earn first team all-NSAA honors (2016-17), NAIA Opening Round – Davenport Bracket all-tournament team accolades (2016), and an NSAA Gold Glove (2017) in his career.
In his two seasons at WNCC in 2014 and 2015, Moran was an all-region pick both seasons as an outfielder. Moran played Legion baseball for the WESTCO Zephyrs under his dad, Mark Moran.
Moran said his time at WNCC and Bellevue helped him as a player.
"I have improved every year from my freshman to senior year of college," he said. "Playing at WNCC and Bellevue were huge parts of me making it here today."
His path to playing professionally was detoured a bit early this season after an elbow injury. While he is still recovering from it, he can swing a bat.
"My injury was a strained UCL in my elbow," he said. "I still can't throw full strength, but I can hit just fine. Sitting out and rehabing is not fun but it is something that you have to get through."
The Saltdogs season runs through Sept. 3. The Saltdogs will next be in action July 13-15 at conference-leading Sioux City Explorers. The Saltdogs play in the South Conference of the American Association along with teams from Sioux City, Kansas City, Wichita, Cleburne, and Texas.
Moran is just one of many former Cougars in the minor leagues. Former Cougar and Bellevue graduate John Timmins is with the Augusta Greenjackets of the Class A South Atlantic League. The Greenjackets are affiliated with the San Francisco Giants. Timmins has pitched in 13 games with the Augusta team with 20 strikeouts from the mound. The Class A South Atlantic League is the same league that former Cougar Phillips Orta played in back in 2009 when he played for the Savannah Sand Gnats. Orta was a New York Mets draft pick.