GREENSBORO — Five pitches. That’s all Colin Moran needed in his professional debut to prove that he was worthy of the hype.
After drawing a 2-2 count, Moran teed off on a pitch and drove it to right field for not only his first hit, but also his first home run as a minor leaguer.
While Moran didn’t meet with the media following the game, he spoke about what the game meant to him prior to his first baseball game since North Carolina lost to UCLA in the College World Series on June 21.
“It feels like Opening Day all over again,” he said. “I’m really excited to get my professional career underway.”
His professional career got underway, all right. With one swing, Moran had his first career hit, extra-base hit, RBI, run and home run. Moran went undrafted out of high school, but went to North Carolina and was chosen with the No. 6 pick by the Miami Marlins in the 2013 MLB Draft.
Moran skipped over playing for the Class-A short season affiliate of the Marlins and is happy he got to play in Greensboro, close to his home for the last three years in Chapel Hill.
“When I found out I was coming here, I was pretty excited,” he said. “It’s right down the road from where I went to school, so I’m pretty familiar with the area.”
In fact, Moran played at NewBridge Bank Park, the Grasshoppers’ stadium, during his sophomore season during the ACC tournament.
“I remember not doing too well,” Moran joked. “But I like the park and the field is nice. So I’m excited to play here.”
The Port Chester, N.Y. native agreed to a signing bonus of $3,516,500, which was the slot value assigned to the selection, last Friday and officially joined his uncles B.J. and Rich Surhoff and brother Brian Moran in the professional ranks.
Being a high draft pick means a good signing bonus – which Moran clearly got – but it can also come with high expectations. Moran didn’t seem too worried about that.
“No one has higher expectations of themself than me,” he said. “I think I can do a lot to help the team win, offensively and defensively, and I’m just going to try to be a smart player.”
As for expectations from Grasshoppers manager Jorge Hernandez, he just wants to see Moran enjoy himself.
“He’s a guy that did really well in college and hopefully he can come out here and help us,” Hernandez said. “We want him to come here and have fun and just learn the ins and outs of the game at this level.”
With an aging Placido Polanco as the starting third baseman and no real mainstay at the position since Mike Lowell in 2005, Hernandez believes the 20-year-old could move through the system fast and fill a need for the Marlins in the near future.
But before he can get to Miami, he will need to learn a lot about the differences between college and professional baseball.
“The biggest transition for him to learn will be playing every day,” he said. “In college, they play on the weekend and once or twice during the week. He’ll need to learn the routine – the road trip, the bus ride, taking BP – but I think he’ll do fine.
“He’s a big, strong guy who should play well at third … but he will need to learn a lot at this level before he can make it at the highest level.”
Smith: 919-829-4841; Twitter: @RCorySmith