When he opted to return to the Navy baseball team for his junior season in 2014, Stephen Moore knew a mandatory postgraduate service commitment would have to be completed shortly after.
What Moore didn't foresee at the time was a career in Major League Baseball, something that came to fruition when his hometown Atlanta Braves selected him during the 10th round of the First-Year Player Draft June 9.
Moore, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-handed pitcher who graduated from Navy in May, was tabbed with the No. 300 overall pick, the highest a Midshipmen player has ever gone.
"Coming out of the Naval Academy, it's difficult for athletes to pursue a professional dream or a professional career, just because we do have our commitment," said Moore, who received his degree in international relations. "We know we have to serve our country, and that's why we're [at Navy]. But to have an opportunity like this is pretty incredible, especially being drafted by my hometown team."
But the 23-year-old is scheduled to report to flight school in Pensacola, Fla., July 31 for about one year to prepare for his service assignment as a Naval Flight Officer. After finishing his training, Moore will begin fulfilling his five-year military requirement that he obliged to do in exchange for the free schooling Navy provided.
Once he departs for flight school, Moore said the burden of remaining in baseball shape until he returns to the Braves' organization will be a challenge.
"Being a pilot, I'm not necessarily going to be ... on a ship all the time," Moore said. "I will be primarily based on land. I'll have an opportunity to throw, and I'll be able to throw and stay in shape as best as possible."
Students attending U.S. service academies can avoid that commitment if they elect not to further their military education past their sophomore year.
Knowing he would have to honor that responsibility if he remained at Navy his entire collegiate career, Moore said he never considered transferring elsewhere for his final two years of eligibility. He ultimately decided he would better enhance his future through the instruction he received at Navy.
"People asked me if I considered leaving to try and transfer to another school to pursue [a major league] career, but the answer I told them was, ‘No, not really.' I knew what the Naval Academy had to offer," Moore said. "I knew that it would give me an opportunity to be a leader in the Navy, be an officer and serve my country. That's where I wanted to be."
On the field, the crafty soft-tossing Moore developed into one of the Midshipmen's most consistent hurlers in recent memory, demonstrating pinpoint command and a strong presence on the mound.
During four seasons at the Annapolis, Md., school, Moore was 14-16 with a 2.90 ERA in 56 appearances spanning 269.2 innings. He finished his Navy career with 199 strikeouts, a .238 opponents' batting average and yielded 50 walks -- an average of 1.67 per nine innings for the second-best mark in program history.
A native of Marietta, Ga., Moore went undrafted in 2010 after leading The Walker School to the Georgia 5A regional championship and acknowledged Navy was the lone Division I program to offer him a scholarship.
Moore said the lack of interest he garnered coming out of high school left him with a chip on his shoulder. He also noted it played a big part in helping him earn a number of individual accolades during his storied collegiate career, including 2013 All-Patriot League first-team honors.
"I've had people throughout my life tell me that I can't do something," Moore said. "That's been a huge motivation. When other schools turned down looks at me, that was motivation enough.
"Even still, when somebody says you can't do something -- some people don't react this way -- it's always motivated me to prove somebody wrong. At the Naval Academy, which is not a highly looked at Division I team, even though we won the Patriot League … I put in a lot of work during my time there. I think that had a lot to do with [my success]."
Four days after being drafted, Moore reported to Atlanta's spring training complex in Buena Vista, Fla., and then joined the Danville Braves of the short-season Appalachian League. Despite pitching in a new role out of the bullpen, the 23-year-old has continued to excel, compiling a 2-0 record with a 2.84 ERA in six appearances during 12.2 innings, as of July 13.
As he looks to reach Atlanta one day, Moore said he has consulted with fellow Navy alumnus Mitch Harris about the unique experience. Harris made his major league debut with the St. Louis Cardinals April 25, becoming the first Midshipmen graduate in 94 years to do so.
"Seeing the success that Mitch Harris has had is a testament to the work he put in while he was away from baseball," Moore said. "To see that he's had success and been able to do what he's done, it gives me a lot of hope and keeps me optimistic about the whole process. He was an incredible player at the Naval Academy, and he busted his tail, and he's made it back to where he was -- if not further. He's an incredible guy."