There’s a pretty short list of professional baseball players that have come out of Juneau, and the list just grew by one.
Kellen Moen, 23, is the most recent MLB draftee from Alaska’s capital city after going to the Kansas City Royals in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft on June 7.
Moen joins Toby Staveland, Chad Bentz, Joe Ayers and Zack Kohan as players from Juneau to be drafted.
A right-handed pitcher, Moen played for the Crimson Bears JV and varsity baseball teams as a freshman. He was a part-time Juneau resident his last three years of high school, spending the first half of the academic year at Juneau-Douglas before heading to Southern California, where he played at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School.
After high school he played junior college ball at El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., before transferring to the University of Oregon, where he graduated this spring with a degree in political science.
Moen didn’t play much his junior year at Oregon but he went 1-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 28 relief appearances as a senior, striking out 43 in 41 1/3 innings.
“I didn’t get much of an opportunity my junior year,” he said, “but I had a really good senior year.”
Good enough for the pros to come calling.
The Royals drafted him 216th overall in the seventh of 50 rounds. He was the first Duck off the board from this season’s Oregon team that finished 33-26-1 and began the year ranked No. 14.
“I was with my roommates and we were listening to the draft online,” he said. “We went out to eat because I knew I wouldn’t go in the first couple of rounds, and we got back from breakfast at 11:55. I ended up going right at noon. I just made it to hear my name called.
“I was really happy to be drafted by the Royals,” he continued. “They’ve treated me great and let me graduate before I had to report, so I’m happy about that.”
Moen said that moment was the culmination of a long journey that began as a player in Gastineau Channel Little League.
“I knew I was going to get drafted because I had talked to scouts, but it’s been a long time coming,” he said. “I didn’t take the easy route. I went from Alaska to California to junior college to Oregon. I got a scholarship but I didn’t really play much my junior year. But it was exciting, for sure.”
Moen recently reported to Idaho Falls, Idaho, where he debuted with the Chukars, of the Rookie Pioneer League.
“It’s a short season, pretty much all the guys that just got drafted,” he said. “I already played a full college season, and then they send you here for a couple of months and we’ll be done in September.”
The next stop is likely with a Class A or Class A-Advanced club.
Moen said his debut, though memorable, wasn’t great, but his arm felt lively.
“I threw the ball well but our field is one of the fastest I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I got one groundball I thought was going to be a double play and it ended up chopping over the second baseman’s head.”
Moen made his first professional start Monday on the Fourth of July, giving up three runs on five hits and a walk while striking out five in four innings. The Chukars went on to a 13-8 win over the Ogden Raptors.
“I was on a limited pitch count and I was nervous at first,” he said. “But then I started feeling more and more comfortable, and I felt like myself. I felt like I did at college. I hadn’t pitched in a while because after school I took a couple of weeks off.
“I was a little nervous but I settled in and it was just baseball again.”
Moen said he hopes to make it to the major leagues one day but recognizes there’s still a long way to go.
“I want to take it as far as I can. I went pretty high in the draft, so we’ll see,” he said. “It’s a long way to the top when you’re down here. This is about as low as you can get, but I’m having a really great time.”
It might take a few years before Moen gets a shot at the big leagues but as he said himself, he’s taken the scenic route before. And it’s worked out well for him.