One of Arizona’s top hitters historically, Robbie Moen spent his Fourth of July weekend assisting in the development of Class of 2024 baseball prospects at Lake Charles, La., about a six-hour drive from his Frisco, Texas, home near Dallas.
His trip down memory lane when he was the same age as those hopefuls took him back to about 35 years ago — to the football field at Flowing Wells High School.
“I was actually so cocky, I waited until the season started, went to the first freshman game and saw who was the quarterback,” Moen said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m better than this guy.’ I had never played football before.
“And I took the job from him by the second week.”
That kind of moxie enabled Moen to have one of the most storied high school baseball and football careers in Southern Arizona history. He was an all-state selection in both sports by when he graduated from Flowing Wells in 1989.
Moen went from being a quarterback as a freshman to a wide receiver/defensive back and punter from his sophomore year until only two games remained in his senior season when coach John Kashner used him at quarterback because of his athleticism out of the Wing T offense.
Nobody at Flowing Wells has topped his five touchdowns in a game that he achieved against Rincon in 1987.
“His greatest attribute was he loved to prove people wrong,” said longtime Tucson-area baseball coach Len Anderson, who coached Moen at Flowing Wells and also had stints at Pima College and Canyon del Oro High School.
Moen, who also played a season of varsity basketball at Flowing Wells, became one of the state’s top shortstops as a senior in the 1989 season. He batted at least .400 in each of his last three seasons with the Caballeros.
“He was a really hard worker who was a baseball-aholic,” said Anderson, who has been retired from coaching since 2011 but continues to work at the University of Arizona as a mentor for student teachers who are earning their master’s degree.
“Robbie was the baseball version of a gym rat,” Anderson continued. “He was coachable and wanted to learn, but the thing I remember most about him, he was full of fire. He never took an at-bat off. You can’t say that about a lot of players.”
Moen’s late grandfather Robert Rovich, a World War II veteran, captured Moen’s success since his freshman year at Flowing Wells in a series of scrapbooks that Moen keeps at his Frisco home. His daughters Payton and Paige grew up with those scrapbooks.
Moen was not employed when he moved to Frisco in 2016 so he could remain close to his daughters. After an 18-year background as hitting coach at Kansas State and Loyola Marymount and scout with the Tampa Bay Rays, he moved from his southern California home when his ex-wife Chrisdee, a former Arizona batgirl, transferred to nearby Plano to work at Toyota’s North American headquarters.
A member of Arizona’s All-Century Team in baseball, Moen discovered a baseball and softball academy called the Frozen Ropes upon arriving at Frisco. The organization’s name is an apt description for Moen’s hits during his career with the Wildcats, which included a .402 average as a sophomore in 1991. He was hired by Frozen Ropes to coach its 16U softball team.
Moen also started to build upon his education career working as a substitute at a middle school in Frisco. This school year, Moen will work full-time as a physical education teacher and head junior varsity softball coach at Braswell High School in Aubrey, Texas, which is close to Frisco.
He recently married and plans to stay in the Frisco area for now. His oldest daughter Payton is a sophomore at Arizona and his other daughter Paige is a senior in high school at Frisco.
When asked of his fondest memory competing at Flowing Wells and Arizona, Moen mentioned playing with his grandparents (Robert and Mary Rovich) and parents (Michael and Roslyn Moen) in the stands.
“The biggest thing was getting a chance to play in front of them all the time,” said Moen, whose grandparents and dad have passed away. “I have scrapbooks upon scrapbooks from the time I was about 12 years old. My grandpa would write little summaries after games and after seasons of how I did and who we played. He did that all the way through college.
“I have eight or 10 scrapbooks that my grandpa kept of my history. You don’t appreciate it as much when you’re growing up, but when you get done, you look back and appreciate you got to play in front of the family for a lot of games growing up.”
Many of those cherished memories growing up in Tucson included his time with Continental Little League of which he was a part of into his high school days while others played in showcase leagues.
Presented a fund-raising challenge as a freshman at Flowing Wells with the reward being a trip to Silver City, N.M., to play in a tournament with the varsity baseball team Moen of course succeeded and earned the right to travel with the Caballeros.
“I was the top seller and my grandparents and parents got in the car and went to watch me play; there’s pictures from when I got in the game,” Moen said. “It’s crazy. They have everything.”
Moen was at the same age as the incoming high school freshmen at the Future Stars Series conducted by NewBalance at McNeese State University during the Fourth of July weekend last week. He was invited to be an instructor at the event by one of the organizers, who knew of Moen from his scouting background.
Since his pro career ended in 1997, Moen has been involved with baseball either coaching or scouting. He was an assistant at Kansas State (1997-2000) and Loyola Marymount (2001-05) and then a scout with Tampa Bay (2006-12). He then served as a hitting instructor at two different academies in the Los Angeles area before moving to Frisco in 2016. He coached youth softball with Frozen Ropes before becoming the hitting coach of the Russian National Team in 2017.
Moen and fellow Flowing Wells graduate Blake Eager (the team’s pitching coach) prepared the Russians for international competition with a training camp in Moscow followed by a tournament at Prague, Czech Republic.
Becoming a full-time teacher at Braswell this fall, Moen, 49, has his sights set on establishing a high school coaching career.
“I’m going to be starting out as the head JV softball coach, so that’s a good starting point for me,” he said. “I wanted to get into the high school level to do some coaching. I have that opportunity here. I would like to have my own varsity program some time.
“I think I would be very good at it. I would offer a different style of coaching that girls are used to (with his extensive baseball background). I’m hoping this high school thing is a good thing for me.”
The point he is at in his career could have been altered had he turned his focus more to football — “High school football is still the most fun I’ve had in a sporting event,” Moen said — and worked on building his muscle mass and weight to be able to compete in college.
He received football recruiting letters from Stanford, Arizona and UCLA his senior year at Flowing Wells.
“I wouldn’t have had a future in football,” Moen said. “It would have been fun to play in college, but I was about 155 pounds, maybe. My feet were fast at the high school level but if you put me at the level of Pac-12 football, I wouldn’t have been very fast.
“Since I wouldn’t have been fast, I would have been one of those possession guys that goes over the middle. You’re going to have Junior Seau hanging around there, Troy Polamalu … Steve Emtman. Come on, those guys would have broke me in half.”
The opportunity to be a part of Dick Tomey’s football team would have been as a punter with a much less chance for injury, but Jerry Kindall would have none of that.
“I actually wanted to punt at the U of A but Coach Kindall wouldn’t let me,” Moen said. “He didn’t want me to miss fall ball. I wouldn’t be able to technically practice with the baseball team in the fall. Coach Kindall never budged. I don’t even think he thought about it too much. You didn’t mess with that guy. There was no gray area.”
Moen learned that although Kindall was stuck in his ways he still could be won over for how he played baseball for him. Kindall experienced Moen’s competitive fire, of which Anderson described, when he denied Moen’s request for increasing his scholarship designation after a productive freshman season despite a limited number of at-bats.
“I batted .333 in about 100 at-bats — I thought I should have had more — and I was the MVP of a tournament we played at North Carolina,” Moen said. “I was feeling pretty good about myself. I went into his office at the end of the year for our meeting and I said, ‘Coach, I’d like talk to you about possibly getting more scholarship money for next year.’
“The meeting lasted about 10 more seconds and he said, ‘Well, I don’t see you being an every-day player for us yet so the answer is no.’ He was not a jerk or rude about it. I left the office thinking, ‘Well, I have something to prove.’ I came back from my summer at the Cape (Cod League) and never missed another inning.”
Moen, who credits his batting development to hours of work with Anderson and former Arizona hitting coach Jerry Stitt, finished his career at Arizona second in at-bats (843) and doubles (63), third in hits (325) and total bases (465) and fifth in RBIs (185).
Aside from being named to the All-Century Team (1900 to 1999), Moen is honored on Arizona’s Baseball Legends Plaza Wall of Fame. Former teammate George Arias, a Pueblo High School alum, is also on the Wall of Fame.
“It’s true about any competitor like Robbie: if you tell them they can’t do it or you have questions about it or whether they can do it, you’re going to find that people with a lot of pride, like Robbie, will find a way to prove you wrong,” Anderson said.
Moen is in the Flowing Wells Hall of Fame and was inducted in the Pima County Hall of Fame three years ago. The honor that has eluded him is getting into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. He is concerned that he will not be inducted because he has been nominated twice but was not chosen. Moen said Arizona has a rule a person can only be nominated twice.
“I don’t know how you’re chosen for the All-Century team and you’re considered one of the top 20 players to play in the program and you’re not in the hall of fame,” Moen said. “I e-mailed (Arizona athletic director) Dave Heeke about a month ago about it and I have yet to hear back from him.”
Moen’s history shows he has faced difficult odds or circumstances and has overcome them, so don’t count out his place in the Arizona Hall of Fame yet.
Recruited by Stanford in baseball as well, Moen at one time envisioned playing for the Cardinal. He was ready to commit to play for the Cardinal and coach Mark Marquess until daily communication with Marquess and his staff became non-existent after the start of his senior season with the Caballeros.
Anderson mentioned Moen did not meet Stanford’s admission test requirements in January of that year but Marquess did not bother to inform them.
“Stanford recruited him very hard but then they backed off because they were concerned he would not be academically eligible for them, but Robbie was a very good student — very good — and he was a smart guy,” Anderson said of Moen, who was selected the Tucson Citizen Student-Athlete of the Year as a senior in 1988-89 because of his 4.0 GPA.
“I talked to Stanford’s recruiting coordinator and he said their best predictor of success is test scores. Robbie probably had an off-day on a test and they backed away. But then the U of A got involved …”
Kindall showed up to a Flowing Wells game after learning Stanford was no longer the leader to sign Moen, and it was an experience Moen wished he could do over again.
“I went to Jerry Kindall’s camp since I was 10 years old, and I worked at that camp when I was a sophomore in high school,” Moen said. “So he comes to watch me play and I have my only 0-fer game of the year, one of my two or three strikeouts for the year and I made an error.
“If that was the only time he would see me, I would not have been offered a scholarship to Arizona. (Assistant) Scott Stanley came back to watch me the next week and I hit a home run, stole second after a base hit and ran the catcher over to score a run. After Stanford fell through, I thought I was headed to Loyola Marymount because they offered a very good scholarship, but my family could not afford the difference. Arizona wound up being my third choice, but it ended up being my best choice. Everything worked out.”
Moen’s approach to life, overcoming the challenges by using proven techniques and his strong will, is similar to his signature routine before he took an at-bat.
Since he was playing for Continental at 12 years old, Moen developed a methodical routine of setting the bat down to lean against his legs, refastening each batting glove, taking a few swings, adjusting his cap and then stepping into the batter’s box. This occurred before every pitch.
“I was a very — very — superstitious player,” he said. “My superstitions ran much farther than on the field. It was showering the same way every morning, eating the same breakfast, wearing the same clothes … I was a freak. I really was.
“When I play golf, I have the same pre-shot routine every time. So you know, the guys, they give me a hard time. We’ve had a couple of reunions with our 1993 team (that came one game away from the College World Series). We play golf and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, let’s go. Hit the ball.’ But that’s me. I do things the way I know how to succeed. I’ve always been that way.”
PREVIOUS 520H SO GOOD FEATURES:
Click on the photo to access the stories:
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.