The Coastal Plain League doesn’t have just one kind of baseball player. There are top-level prospects from the best Division I programs in the country, all the way down to junior college players still finding their way in this game.
Tyler Riebock, from Division II Ouachita Baptist, and Hank Moore, from Division II Lincoln Memorial, are players who come from schools that won’t jump off the page to casual baseball fans, but they’ve both proven that it’s not about where you play, but how you play the game that matters.
Both Riebock and Moore grew up playing baseball and watching two of the most popular franchises in sports. Riebock grew up in a Chicago Cubs family, and was in high school when the team won the 2016 World Series. Baseball was in his blood from birth and it’s stayed that way.
“It’s always been a lifestyle for us. I’ve got two little brothers. They both play. It’s 100 percent. My dad played in college. Baseball has been my life for as long as I can remember,” Riebock said.
For Moore, he grew up watching the Boston Red Sox and the team’s captain, Jason Varitek. Moore still wears No. 33 when he’s at school because of his childhood idol. He said the game switch from just being a hobby to being more than that when he hit middle school.
“I think about sixth grade is kind of when it flipped a switch for me that baseball was my No. 1 sport and that’s what I wanted to play,” Moore said. “I think I just got good enough when I was younger and realized I could do more with this sport.”
When it came time to make college decisions, neither of the Mustangs’ player got offers from the big schools, but rather from schools that neither of them had ever heard of until the schools came calling with the offer to continue playing baseball.
“I just wanted to keep playing. I had never heard of the school before, and then I went out there for a camp,” Moore explained. “I just kind of fell in love with that area.”
“That was an opportunity to play past high school. That’s what it’s always been about for me is being able to prove that I belong,” Riebock said.
Coming from smaller schools where the pitching is strong, but not as consistently strong as it is on a nightly basis in the CPL, making the jump can be difficult. Riebock and Moore have made it look easy at times. They are tied for third on the Mustangs with a .323 batting average. Riebock leads the team with three home runs and 12 RBIs. Moore hasn’t hit one out, but is tied for fourth on the team with seven RBIs.
“I definitely wanted to go to the CPL because I knew how good the league was and I wanted to prove to myself that I could play at this level,” Riebock said.
On the other end, Moore was in the Valley League last summer, playing in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia, but he didn’t know if he had a spot anywhere this summer. Then he got the call to come to Martinsville.
“I didn’t think I had much of a shot at the CPL,” Moore said.
‘Hey now, you’re all All Star!’
Now both Moore, a catcher, and Riebock, a third baseman, will represent the Mustangs in the CPL All-Star Game.
“It’s crazy. I was not expecting it at all. I was just trying to play my own game and then I was lucky enough to get selected,” Moore said of the selection.
“Being on the all-star team, that’s just another step on the way, continuing to prove to myself and everybody else that I belong here,” Riebock said. “It was definitely a goal. When I found out there was an all-star game in Savannah I was like, ‘I want to be there July 7 and 8.’”
The league announced the rosters Tuesday afternoon while Martinsville was traveling to take on Peninsula. Riebock found on Instagram. Moore was otherwise engaged when the news dropped.
“I was taking a nap,” Moore laughed. “I was still asleep (when they told me)... then it just kind of hit me.”
When the team gathered in the locker room at Peninsula, Head Coach Kregg Snook announced to everyone the good news.
“I could tell they were excited for us,” Riebock said. “It’s awesome to have that support from them.”
The all-star game will take place next weekend in Savannah, where the players will have the chance to perform in front of Major League Baseball scouts.
“I really want to impress people, but I’m not going to worry about it so much that I don’t impress anybody,” Moore said. “I got here for a reason, so keep on doing it.”
“You definitely want to impress everybody every time you step on the field, but I think really the big thing for me about all-star weekend will be to just remind myself it’s a game, I’m having fun and it’s not that serious,” Riebock said.
Riebock is going to be a junior when he returns to OBU in the fall, while Moore will enter his final year at Lincoln Memorial.
Neither wants to see their baseball career end, so both are targeting strong summers, and carrying that over to strong seasons back at school to give themselves a shot at more.
“If I see I have a chance after next school season... I’ll probably come back and try to keep going and just ride it until it falls off,” Moore said.
Moore said his main focus this summer is on receiving pitches. Working with the group of Division I pitchers on the Mustangs’ staff is only helping in doing that.
“It just makes it a lot better coming back to school catching dudes that throw hard and have good stuff,” he said.
For Riebock, he’s spent most of his baseball career trying to prove he belongs. He’s done that so far in Martinsville, but he’s not done yet.
“I’m going to do everything I can in my power to make sure I continue to play after college,” he said.
Not alone in Savannah
Riebock and Moore won’t be the only Mustangs in Savannah for all-star weekend. Martinsville pitcher Davis Palermo, out of North Carolina, was selected as a pitcher. He won’t be on the same team as his Martinsville teammates necessarily. He will be available to be drafted by one of the teams that reaches the semifinals. He earned that nod as being one of the top vote getters by coaches.
“It felt really good, especially not having been able to play in the spring,” said Palermo, who was redshirted at UNC last season. “It’s just cool to be an all-star.”
Palermo has more chances than his Mustang teammates in terms of getting seen my the MLB when he returns to UNC, but that doesn’t mean he wants to let this opportunity slip away.
“It’s good for the exposure,” he said. “It’ll just be a fun time.”
Palermo will also represent the Mustangs as a member of the CPL Select team that will face off against the USA Collegiate National Team on Monday in Cary, North Carolina.
Chris Doherty is a Sports Reporter for the Martinsville Bulletin. Contact him 276-638-8801 ext. 215. Follow on Twitter @BulletinSport