This story appears in FCA Magazine’s September/October 2016 issue. Subscribe today!
Luke Hochevar had just become a champion, the winning pitcher in an epic, World Series-clinching victory for the Kansas City Royals. Amid the hysteria of hugs and dogpiles and Gatorade showers, Hochevar found himself standing behind the pitcher’s mound, taking all of it in with a macro, decade-long view.
“God just set before my eyes everything that this organization has come through,” Hochevar said earlier this season, “… knowing God has His hand in it.”
The Royals came from behind in eight of their 11 postseason victories, including a ninth-inning, two-run deficit in the Series-clinching Game 5. Team attributes such as relentlessness and clubhouse culture can be difficult to measure. They had to seem even more esoteric back in 2007 when Dayton Moore, entering his first full season as a general manager, cast a grand vision focusing as much on high-minded, heart-level principles as it did on arm strength or swing mechanics.
“The first meeting he had in spring training in 2007, he laid out what he foresaw this organization being down the road,” Hochevar said. “Not only that, but how we’re going to address that and change the culture and turn this into a winning atmosphere.”
The slow build is a lost art in modern-day sports, where quick fixes rule and teams reinvent themselves more often than we see a new presidential election.
But the Royals placed their trust in Moore, who has led the franchise’s return to the top of Major League Baseball. It happened in large part because they empowered a man who desires to tether nearly every major decision to Scripture and whose leadership principles come from Jesus, not the latest and greatest podcast.
“He’s just a good man who really loves his family, really loves Jesus and really loves baseball,” said Christian Newsome, pastor at Journey City International in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and one of Moore’s closest advisers. “He is the real deal.”
For Moore, a humble deferral covers all of who he is—and who he strives to be.
“If there’s anything good in me at all,” he is fond of saying, “it comes from Jesus.”
• • •
Dayton Moore holds his immediate family very close. When rattling off his roles, husband and father are the “most important” he has.
Moore had just finished his graduate work and was an assistant baseball coach at George Mason University when he married Marianne on Sept. 5, 1992. They are now the parents of Ashley (20), Avery (17) and Robert (14).
All professions have the potential to be all-consuming, but general manager of an MLB team is uniquely demanding. Moore’s baseball year begins with eight weeks—largely away from his family—at spring training. Then comes the six-month stretch of professional sports’ most grueling regular season, flittering from roster decisions to disabled lists to draft choices to trade deadlines. The high-stakes, drama-filled postseason comes next—which took the Royals all the way through October in 2014 and 2015. And finally, the outdatedly termed “offseason” is filled with free agency, phone calls and organizational meetings.
The Moore Family: Robert, Avery, Dayton, Ashley and Marianne while in Israel in 2015.
Moore guards against being overrun by all of it and encourages others to do the same.
“Every year in spring training he says, ‘Your family is more important than this,’” Hochevar said. “‘You take care of home, and baseball will be fine. But you take care of home first.’”
Five days after the Royals won the 2015 World Series, the Moore family headed to Israel on a missions trip with a team from Journey City International. The trip overlapped with MLB’s GM meetings, where the seeds of free-agent deals and trades often are planted. Moore’s absence was questioned in some baseball circles, specifically the media.
But Moore was taking care of home first.
“To watch him walk through the streets of Jerusalem with his arm around his daughter,” Newsome said. “To watch him throw rocks into the Sea of Galilee with his son, Robert. To see him holding hands with his wife, Marianne, walking through the Valley of Elah where David killed Goliath … I saw him at tremendous peace over there.
“And I saw him tremendously engaged with his family, probably in a way that everyday life being a general manager doesn’t afford.”
• • •
Moore was born in Wichita, Kan., to Robert and Penne. The family spent time in Kansas, Florida, Tennessee, New York and eventually Moline, Illinois, as his dad’s career as an aviation mechanic instructor dictated.
While Robert’s job meant he wasn’t around “as much as we’d like,” Dayton admired his father’s work ethic and dedication to provide for his family. He also saw more than enough of a glimpse to understand what a “spiritual leader” looked like.
“I knew a relationship with Jesus was important because I saw that modeled,” Dayton said. “My father, he was my hero, like a lot of little boys. When presented with the opportunity to have Jesus as a part of my life and accept Him into my heart and soul, it was a natural thing to do.”
That decision grew deeper roots while Moore was playing baseball for Garden City (Kansas) Community College. He was invited to a Bible study, giving him perhaps one of his most formative early examples of what a positive clubhouse culture could foster.
“You’re away from home for the first time, and you’re looking for deeper relationships outside your family,” Moore said. “And for the first time, I really understood.”
That, in part, is why Kansas City always stayed with Moore and why he fully understands the privilege and platform that comes with being the Royals’ general manager.
He is a driving force behind the Kansas City MLB Urban Youth Academy, which has a goal of providing free baseball, softball, educational and vocational programs for 1,000 local children. And, in 2014, he and Marianne started the “C” You In The Major Leagues Foundation to use youth baseball to develop character-driven leaders, help families in crisis, and support education and faith-based initiatives. His speaking calendar each December and January is packed with appearances on behalf of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other ministries. He has encouraged and exhorted 300-plus pastors in the middle of Kansas City, and he has hopped in a car for a 10-hour round trip to Dodge City, Kansas, to share the gospel and motivate donors and FCA staff.
“He’s the first person to the event and the last person out,” said Marcellus Casey, FCA’s multi-area director for Missouri and Kansas. “The resources he has he holds with an open hand, and that increases our FCA ministry.”
For Moore, road trips are a swirl of relationship-building and competition. He always drives, Casey said, and he sets a clear goal of how many cars he must pass in between stops for gas. When he does slow down, he makes friends.
“At every gas station, I would be at the door ready to leave, and Dayton would be talking to them, asking how their crops are doing, knowing someone they know,” Casey said. “He’s going to get to know people, in the hotel lobby or wherever we stopped for lunch.”
• • •
Some of Dayton Moore’s favorite words—accountability, transparency, forgiveness, empowered, unashamed—are not merely tidy catchphrases to put on a Twitter bio. (He doesn’t have an account.) Rather, they are the template for everyday life, in every area of his life, and Moore said they are “absolutely crucial to have the proper balance as a husband and father and professional.”
Moore worked his way into Major League Baseball as an area scout with the Atlanta Braves, steadily climbing the ladder from 1994 through 2005 as a key member of a front office that oversaw 11 consecutive division titles.
Moore has made it a priority to engage with the Kansas City community, like speaking at local events.
In the early 2000s, Moore discovered the book, “The Management Methods of Jesus: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Business.” The mix of everyday situations and eternal perspective resonated with Moore. When he took the Royals job, he set his own management approach with many of those lessons in mind. Among the central tenets: forgiveness and relentlessness. He expects those of himself before everyone else, and he knows the two are intricately connected.
“There’s all kinds of critics in this game. Even people within your organization that think there’s a better way to do things,” Moore said. “I can never recall a single day in my life where I haven’t thought about this game. But the truth of the matter is you go through periods where you do think about quitting.
Moore loves investing in local up and coming ball players and hosts an annual youth baseball camp.
“Usually, when you trace that back to why you feel that way, it always leads to the forgiveness piece. There’s something in my life that’s making me angry—whether it’s a relationship I need to repair or something else I need to deal with. I don’t think I’d be able to do that without my faith.”
Newsome and Tim Cash, the longtime chaplain with the Braves whom Moore calls his “spiritual mentor,” are two men whom have been given total access. They take turns staying with him during spring training, witnessing his relentless reading of Scripture every morning, and hearing the worship music piped into the room at all times.
“This guy is an honest-to-God follower of Jesus and is very unashamed of it,” Newsome said. “Not boastful about it. Not arrogant about it. But if you spend time with him, you know it.”
Newsome and Cash sit in on front-office meetings and hear phone conversations he has with reporters. That can lead to exploring the difference between a critical eye (someone “can perhaps uncover a blind spot”) and a critical spirit (“Maybe they enjoy that you’re struggling or you’re down, and I have to give that away to Jesus,” Moore said).
It’s all part of how Moore’s desired organizational harmony begins with him.
• • •
In the mid-1970s through the 1985 season, the Royals went to the playoffs seven times and played in the World Series twice—winning once.
But following the 1985 championship, for nearly three decades, that era became nostalgic at best as hope dwindled in a city known for its sports passion. From 1986 through 2012, Kansas City lost 90 or more games 13 times and never even sniffed the playoffs.
Bringing It Home Devotional:
Dayton Moore has always been a
man of vision. Whether observing
his father's life of faith that inspired him to begin his own relationship with Christ ... Read more
Yes, that includes the first five-plus seasons of Moore’s tenure. Under many modern paradigms, that would have had everyone from the fans to owner David Glass question the prudence of “the process” Moore is so fond of citing.
“How can we get better each and every day?” Moore said. “How can we create a special environment where people want to work and players want to play? Period.”
Culture change revolved a lot around belief. And not the kind that would be fleeting. He wanted to hire people who “believed deeply in what we were doing” and find players who “believe in each other and do whatever they can to support each other.”
Moore hasn’t simply demanded that. He’s shown how to do it.
Brian Flynn was traded to the Royals in the winter of 2014 and headed from his home in Tulsa, Oklahoma, up to Kansas City for a physical. The Royals were the third organization of Flynn’s career, so he’d been through the routine before. Not long after arriving at Kauffman Stadium, however, Flynn ran into Moore, who asked him about where he was from, his family and how he was raised.
“Not all clubs are like that. He has a busy job and doesn’t have time to chit-chat,” Flynn said. “I just really respect the guys who are calling the shots around here. They’re just good dudes who actually stop and talk to you, get to know you as a person.”
From the highest-paid player on the roster to a left-handed reliever who has bounced between the minors and the big leagues, culture was equally important to Moore.
Manager Ned Yost and Glass were other huge pieces of the puzzle.
Like Moore, Yost had absorbed the excellence of the Braves organization. Specifically, Moore said, Yost found a model in how Bobby Cox “poured into people and let them do their jobs.”
Glass has proved more patient than many pro franchise owners. He has invested in Moore personally, sticking with his general manager and eventually giving him a contract extension. He has equipped Moore, signing the checks for the type of players Moore has sought to implement and maintain clubhouse culture. And Glass has empowered Moore, allowing a setting in which Moore can speak confidently about baseball and Jesus.
By 2013, the Royals turned the corner. They finished 86-76, which set the stage for the following two seasons: two American League pennants, one World Series title, 11 spots on the All-Star team.
“It’s just easier on everyone when you’re allowed to be yourself,” center fielder Lorenzo Cain said, “[and] allowed to be a man and go about your business.”
Business became fun, and the process was finding its fulfillment.
“My only goal is to do the right thing every day and treat people the right way,” Moore has told Newsome. “If I get to do it long enough, I promise it will work. If we run out of time, we will never regret a day of it.”
For more about Dayton Moore’s “C” You In The Major Leagues (CYITML) Foundation, visit CYouInTheMajorLeagues.org. While there, order the revised edition of More Than A Season: Building A Championship Culture by Dayton Moore with Matt Fulks. (All proceeds from the sale of the book benefit CYITML.)
Bringing It Home: Grand Vision
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law.” – Proverbs 29:18 (NASB)
Dayton Moore has always been a man of vision. Whether observing his father’s life of faith that inspired him to begin his own relationship with Christ or harboring a knack for baseball analytics and clubhouse culture through the top ranks of Major League Baseball, the driving force behind Moore’s determination has always been the strength of God.
From the beginning of his tenure with the Kansas City Royals, Moore has set the standard of excellence and intentionality as a godly role model and leader. He advises players and staff members to “take care of family first,” and through that, baseball will take care of itself. Across a wide assortment of roles, Moore’s grand vision for his life leans on the love and guidance of God. In the front office or locker room, at church or home or hotel room, everything is done with Him. It’s his confidence in God’s guidance that gives him grace to embark in missional living with his players, family and, truly, anyone he meets.
The question Moore often asks (“How can we get better each and every day?”) is one we should also be asking ourselves.
God equips us for our sphere of influence. Despite the struggles and sacrifices it might take for His ultimate glory, we must take steps in faith with our eyes fastened upon the future. We can have confidence knowing that what He has planted in our hearts and minds will be brought to fruition in His perfect will and timing.
Without a grand vision, our lives can quickly disintegrate and crumble, and we risk becoming only a shadow of the man or woman God created us to be. If we aren’t pierced by an underlying burden that prods us out of bed each day, we miss out on joining together with the Lord to bring light to a darkening world.
God has placed within you plenty of possibilities with the desire that you hold tight to His promises and cultivate a life mission that lasts. What is your “What if?” Is there something seared across your heart that you’re prayerfully taking steps to cultivate and bring to life? Are you beginning to search through the secret things between you and God to make your part of the world a bit better?
Determine God’s grand vision for your life and get to work. Allow Him to shape it and form it exactly as He means to.
• Do you know the grand vision for your life? Have you taken steps to bring it to pass?
• How can you partner with God in your journey?
• List three specific steps you can take to get your faith vision up and running.
• Psalm 138:8
• Jeremiah 29:11
• Ephesians 2:10
Lord, Let Your vision fall fresh on my spirit. I must make a stand for what my life looks like when I am surrendered to Your heart. Father, help me see the world around me and where You know I will best fit to share Your love. I have a quick attention span; keep me focused on the road You have set before me that will bring You glory. Amen.
Photos courtesy of the Kansas City Royals, Matt Fulks and CYouInTheMajorLeagues.org