The kid from Rye, N.Y., could play a little, but he wasn't quite ready. So he headed to the University of North Carolina to sharpen his skills, get the college experience. Three years later, he was thought to be one of the top hitting prospects in that year's Draft.
That was the storyline in 1985, when B.J. Surhoff ended up being the No. 1 overall pick, by the Brewers, in the First-Year Player Draft. It looks like history is about to repeat itself, and Surhoff only has to look down his family tree to watch it unfold.
Colin Moran is the third baseman for the 2013 version of the Tar Heels, one of the higher-ranked teams in college baseball. He's also Surhoff's nephew, and he's following nearly the same path as his uncle.
Moran isn't a complete copycat, even if he throws right and hits left just like Surhoff did. Surhoff attended Rye High School, while his nephew went to Iona Prep. Moran went undrafted out of high school, while his uncle was taken in the fifth round by the Yankees in 1982. Surhoff left Chapel Hill with a career .392 average, a record that stood until Dustin Ackley recently surpassed it. Moran? He's only hit .354 as his team headed toward conference tournament play. And while Moran's name will likely be discussed by the Astros, who hold the top pick, most don't see him as Houston's Plan A, so he won't be able to match Uncle B.J. in that regard. That's fine with the 21-year-old, who never really thought of his amateur career as a remake.
"Not really, to be honest with you," Moran said when asked if he thought about joining Surhoff as a No. 1 overall pick. "I remember being back in high school and saying that I wanted to be drafted out of high school like he was, and my mom said I was crazy. If it works out, it works out. I can't control that. It would be nice, but whatever happens, happens. It'd be nice to be drafted by whoever drafts me."
There are plenty of interested parties behind the Astros who are interested in being that team. Moran has hit pretty much since he set foot on North Carolina's campus. He led the Cape Cod League in RBIs last summer and has continued driving in runs this season. He has also started to show more power than he had previously, something Major League teams love to see from corner infielders.
"I really don't pay attention to stuff like that," said Moran, who had 13 homers, a .612 slugging percentage and 83 RBIs at the start of the ACC tournament. "I just play my own game and let the rest happen. I don't worry about hitting home runs or driving in runs. I just try to take it at-bat by at-bat."
That even-keeled approach has clearly worked for Moran, who has improved on both sides of the ball since he traveled south from New York as a tall and thin infielder. The claim is that boys can become men in college, and it seems that's the case with Moran, and not just because he's beefed up from the 180 pounds he weighed when he arrived to the 210-215 pounds he says he carries now.
"That was always my goal, to come here and get better, put on some weight," Moran said. "Hopefully it would work out and I'd get to continue to play in the Major Leagues. I didn't really think about the Draft, that's not why I came to North Carolina. I just wanted to improve everything I could."
With the Draft two weeks away, Moran can't help but think about it a little. He admits that it crosses his mind from time to time, but playing on a team with sights set on the College World Series helps keep his priorities straight.
"We're just worried about going to Omaha and the team goals," Moran said. "The individual goals, come as they may. They just take care of themselves."
Even if that drumbeat is getting drowned out by the Draft buzz, Moran has about as solid a support system as a prospect could ask for. He's seen the scouts since he started playing college ball, and he watched Levi Michael go through the process as a first-rounder in 2011.
Then there's Moran's family. His brother, Brian, is probably the first line of defense. Brian also went from Iona Prep to North Carolina and on to the pro game, albeit as a left-handed pitcher. Brian was the Mariners' seventh-round pick in the 2009 Draft and is a reliever at Triple-A Tacoma.
"He's been a huge help my whole life," Colin said. "I talk to him [about] just about everything. Ever since I was a freshman, I've given him a call to talk to him about anything."
Then, of course, there are the uncles. Rich Surhoff pitched briefly in the big leagues, in 1985, the same year his younger brother went No. 1 overall. B.J. Surhoff went on to play parts of 19 seasons in the big leagues, collecting 2,326 hits and 1,153 RBIs along the way. Moran's brother may be the one he calls on for advice, but it's clear his uncle has been quite a role model along the way.
"I don't necessarily ask him for advice too often," Moran said. "I learned so much from watching him play. He set a really good example on and off the field. I learned a lot just from watching him."