Moore’s journey with Verbena softball field comes full circle

Published 1:49 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

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By Carey Reeder | Staff Writer

Chilton County lifer Keith Moore has dedicated a huge portion of his life to Verbena High School. Moore’s dedication to the Verbena softball program was recognized with a ceremony naming the field he worked so hard to make a reality named after him.

At Verbena’s April 24 matchup with Isabella High School, a dedication ceremony was held to announce Keith Moore Field. Moore and his family were greeted on the field by the current Verbena coaching staff and players. He knew the field was being dedicated to him before the end of 2022, but he did not know there would be a dedication ceremony held until a few weeks before.

“It was a great feeling,” Moore said. “It was nice, and I am very appreciative of what they did.”

Moore’s journey with the Verbena softball field came full circle after 25 years. He grew up in Chilton County, attended Verbena throughout his schooling and played all four high school sports the school offered — baseball, basketball, football and track. Moore graduated in 1980, but returned immediately to coach as a volunteer for Troy Mims, who coached Moore in high school. After earning his college degree, Moore was hired at Verbena to teach and coach, including softball.

“The reason I enjoyed softball so much was because I started playing it at 14 years old,” Moore said. “My wife and I had a little girl, and as she grew up, she got interested in softball, and it went from there. I have been involved in softball for a number of years.”

When Moore took over the Verbena softball program in 1997, the team did not have a field to play on and were using the baseball field. The current softball field was just an old playground.

When the baseball field was used for softball games, the bases were moved to 60 feet between each other and the players almost hit the mound while running in the base paths. If a ball got past an outfielder, it was almost a guaranteed inside-the-park home run.

Moore knew something had to be done, and he asked the Verbena principal if he could start developing a plan for a softball field.

“I wanted to provide them the same opportunity as the boys had,” Moore said. “One thing led to another, and I borrowed equipment from farmers to grade and smooth it out. That was what led to this field, and I was so proud of it when we finished it.”

Moore broke ground on the field in the summer of 1998, and it was completed in time for the 1999 season. The field was originally a grass infield, but went to the traditional dirt infield later on. However, the same attention to detail that Moore used when designing the field can still be seen today.

“He was a big part of getting the softball field done at Verbena, and he has had a big impact on Verbena softball,” current Verbena softball coach Geoffery Lockhart said. “When I came (to Verbena), we were trying to get some improvements done, and it was already in pretty good shape, but to just continue to improve the field. He put in an irrigation system, and we got that working.”

Moore’s softball teams went to two state championships, and he helped the program transition from slow-pitch to fast-pitch.

“I had several good players that came through Verbena, and they were successful,” Moore said.

He even got the opportunity to coach his daughter throughout middle and high school and helped her receive a scholarship to play four years of softball at Troy University.

Moore said aside from the softball field, the other athletic facilities at Verbena have improved greatly since his first years on campus.

“They have really grown over the last few years,” Moore said.

Moore is now retired from teaching but still serves on the Chilton County Board of Education and has helped Verbena High School secure assistance with improvements as well in that position. He enjoys fishing, hunting and comes back to Verbena frequently to watch football, baseball and softball games. His daughter, Kala Langston, is now a coach and teacher at Verbena following in her father’s footsteps.

“A lot of programs are judged off of how many state championships you win, and I guess when you start coaching that is your ultimate goal,” Moore said. “We never did, but I would not trade the relationships and the friends I have made coaching softball with my players, parents and assistant coaches for any trophy. I have a lot of friends and a lot of great relationships that I made coaching softball at Verbena.”