Prep Baseball

Moeders' bond strengthened by passion for baseball

Cedar Rapids Xavier junior shares love of the game with former minor-leaguer father

Tony Moeder and his son, Kyle Moeder pose for a photo at the Xavier High School baseball field in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Tony Moeder is a former professional baseball player who taught his son to play the game and later helped coach his youth leagues. Moeder was recently diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a rare disorder that affects his personality, behavior and ability to communicate. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Tony Moeder and his son, Kyle Moeder pose for a photo at the Xavier High School baseball field in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. Tony Moeder is a former professional baseball player who taught his son to play the game and later helped coach his youth leagues. Moeder was recently diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a rare disorder that affects his personality, behavior and ability to communicate. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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CEDAR RAPIDS — The similarities are striking.

Kyle Moeder stands about the same height as his dad, Tony. The resemblance is noticeable in their frames, facial features and warm personalities, including an infectious and glowing smile that could light a baseball diamond for a night game.

If you ask Kathy Moeder, her son and husband resort to the same go-to dance moves, humor and mannerisms.

“He is a little clone of his dad,” she said. “He’s built like Tony was in high school. He is very much his father. I get to watch his son follow in his footsteps and become the wonderful man his father is.”

It was inevitable that path led to the baseball field. Kyle has inherited his dad’s love of the game, strengthening a nearly unbreakable bond between the Cedar Rapids Xavier junior and the former minor-league baseball player.

“Baseball has meant the world,” Kyle said. “In addition to life, baseball is the thing we talk about the most or that he teaches me the most.

“He taught me the knowledge of the game and everything I need to know about it. That started ever since I was little.”

Kyle, now 17, recalled Tony’s excitement to play catch or to hit together, especially in the backyard where Kyle would occasionally clear the fence and hop into the neighbor’s yard to retrieve the ball.

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The pair spent hours snuggled in front of the television, watching countless baseball games on MLB Network. The channel was a must have for Tony, according to Kathy.

Those moments served as the catalyst to instill knowledge and passion for baseball. Kyle tried to soak in every word from his dad.

“I remember sitting next to him on the couch,” Kyle said. “He would talk me through what was going on, different situations. I think that just translated on to my game.

“No matter what happens, we both love the game. We share a love for baseball.”

The love for the game has persevered the trials of daily life. The Moeders, including Kyle’s younger sister, Mary Kate, were shaken when the 46-year-old patriarch was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia more than a year ago. According to the Alzheimers Association, FTD is caused progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes or the temporal lobes.

At times, Tony is withdrawn or loses focus, but baseball remains a sanctuary for the former Cedar Rapids Kernel and California Angels farmhand.

He attentively watched as the Saints practiced Tuesday morning, quickly starting a conversation with friend and Xavier assistant Terry McGinn about a doubleheader sweep over Class 4A third-ranked Cedar Rapids Prairie the previous night.

“Bouts of clarity are best at the ballpark,” said Kathy, who met Tony 24 years ago in his first season in Cedar Rapids. “It’s his comfort zone. His security is here. This was his childhood passion and became his career for several years.”

Kyle was a youth when his parents shared Tony’s baseball accomplishments. Tony, a California native, played collegiately at San Diego. He was a first baseman for the Kernels’ 1994 Midwest League Championship team, belting 18 home runs and 20 doubles with 64 RBIs.

The younger Moeder was in awe when he saw the championship rings and that left him wanting to earn his own someday.

“When he was teaching me as a little kid, I knew I should listen because I want to be as good as he was,” Kyle said. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever. It made me super proud.”

Interestingly, both are willing to forfeit bragging rights. Tony conceded that Kyle has more talent in the early stages of his baseball career, while Kyle aspires to match his dad’s achievements.

“I think he’s better,” Tony said with a quick laugh after noting, “He plays a heck of a good third base. It makes me feel great. He hits the ball real well.”

“I don’t know about that,” Kyle said. “He’s being a little nice there. Everything I’ve heard about him playing, from being a power hitter to his glove in the field, I think he’s better.

“If I keep working, you never know.”

As good as Kyle is on the field, Tony is as pleased with the son he raised away from the diamond.

“I’m proud of him off the field,” Tony said.

Tony helped teach Kyle the fundamentals, becoming involved in coaching when Kyle was at about the 8U level. Kyle was thrust into the role of coach’s son. He said Tony balanced being tough, but demonstrated patience.

Father/son and coach/player shared a special moment when Kyle’s 14U Saints Silver team won a USSSA championship. Tony served as an assistant to Xavier football coach Duane Schulte on that staff.

“Quinn’s dad was the head coach and we won the state title,” Tony said. “It was neat.”

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Tony passed on the intricacies of hitting. Kyle said the emphasis on his top hand in batting and throwing his hands at the ball still echo in his mind. A good reason he is hitting .417 with 40 hits, including seven doubles, three home runs and 35 RBIs this season.

“He is a natural hitter,” Xavier Coach Dan Halter said. “He has hitting in his DNA, obviously.”

Kyle has produced a strong junior season after missing last season to a meniscus tear. He leads the Saints in hits, home runs and RBIs. His 24 runs and .508 on-base percentage ranks second on the team. Kyle has a 2-to-1 walk-to-strikeout ratio at the plate.

“He works super hard,” Halter said. “He leads by example. He’s locked in and focused. On the field, he’s made some big plays at third. He’s had a lot of big hits for us. The great thing about him is the moment is never too big.”

The condition has prevented him from working and being able to drive. Friends and teammates’ parents have rallied around the family, taking Tony to games when Kathy isn’t free. They have appreciated the support from family and friends.

“This community is unbelievable,” Kathy said. “I have people reach out to ask what they can do to help.”

Kyle cherishes each game Tony can attend, calling it a blessing to have him at a baseball, football or basketball game. He said he can’t help but smile, seeing his dad enjoy baseball.

“This is his passion,” Moeder said. “This is his game. He loves this game so much. Although he has this disease, he still loves the game. He understands it and wants to be around it.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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