Inspiring young fans move Orioles, crowd

Pair of charismatic youngsters headline Baltimore's annual Kids Opening Day

April 9th, 2017

BALTIMORE -- Thomas Moore stood on the warning track at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon, eyes wide and with an ear-to-ear grin.

"This is a lot of people!" the 10-year-old Moore exclaimed.

Several yards away, another child, 11-year-old Mo Gaba, took being on the field in an entirely different manner.

"It's really amazing," said Gaba, who has been blind since he was 1 year old. "I'm just excited. I feel like [a celebrity]."

Gaba and Moore were both honored on Sunday as part of the Orioles' annual Kids Opening Day, touching the crowd of 42,487 on hand for a 7-3 loss to the Yankees at Camden Yards.

Moore, a middle school student from Bowie, Md., decided two years ago to grow out his hair to donate it to cancer patients. After seeing a photo online of someone with cancer, Moore was inspired to act. By the time he cut his hair, his donation helped provide three wigs for cancer patients who had lost their hair during treatment.

"For a kid that age to understand that he can inspire somebody is truly remarkable," said Orioles center fielder , who spent some time with both Moore and Gaba pregame. "Especially with all the things going on in the world. when you see somebody that young with that much charisma, passion for life, compassion for others, then you see older people that have none of those qualities. It's pretty crazy that a young kid like that is putting forth such an impact. It just shows you how great this world can be.

"Every blessing comes in all shapes and sizes, colors. It's great to be affiliated with someone like that who has such a big heart."

Moore's before and after hair pictures went viral, prompting visits on "Ellen" and the "Steve Harvey Show." But nothing trumped Sunday for the youngster, who had never been to an Orioles game and was honored as a Birdland Hero on the JumboTron prior to the sixth inning.

"I was very surprised [by the reaction]," Moore said of his decision. "I was like, 'How did all these people know what I did?' All I did was decide to grow my hair out. And then everyone when I would go out would be like, 'I know you!' I got kind of embarrassed."

But once Moore saw the impact he had, the 10-year-old said he felt mature and responsible. He plans on replicating the selfless act for the next school year.

Gaba, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch, also has a bit of a cult following. As a super fan, he's a frequent call-in on local sports talk radio, and he spent pregame smiling and waving as people called out his name from the stands. Gaba was wheeled out to the mound and threw his best pitch to Orioles starter to thunderous applause.

"I'm trying not to cry," Gaba mother, Sonsy, said. "I'm just so happy for him. It's really overwhelming. I was trying to keep it as a surprise from him [at first], and then I can't keep secrets so that didn't last long. I'm just spending the day trying to not cry."

Particularly when Jones and Orioles manager Buck Showalter came out to visit and hug her son.

"I'm a product of the inner cities. I've seen people be impacted by others. I've seen role models impact kids. I've seen it firsthand. I'm one of the kids who has been impacted by it," Jones said. "All these kids need is someone to believe in them."