Dennis Moore has another hot property for sale, but this time it's not California real estate.
Moore, a self-made millionaire and semiretired real estate broker, is hoping to close one of the biggest deals of life, one that concerns the future of his 17-year-old son Michael.
The younger Moore, a football, baseball and basketball star at Beverly Hills High School and the Southern California Athlete of the Year, has accepted a football scholarship at UCLA, but the second-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays may opt for professional baseball.
"The Toronto Blue Jays are going to have to come up with some very aggressive numbers," said Dennis Moore, whose sweet Mississippi drawl sugarcoats his hardball tactics.
"The number they've come up with is respectable for a first- or second-round pick, but it doesn't begin to move us. I've made it clear from early on that for Michael to give up an outstanding opportunity at UCLA, he would have to be in the upper limits of the market."
The Moores can afford to scoff at Toronto's initial package offer of slightly over $100,000. Sitting in the living room of their spacious Beverly Hills home overlooking the swimming pool, tennis court and batting cage, Dennis Moore explains why the services of his son have a much higher price tag.
"Most black athletes in America sit on a different economic platform than Michael. $100,000 to my family is a little different than $100,000 to a guy who's coming from a single-parent home and has been scraping his whole life for a pair of shoes," Moore said. "These kids have no tax shelters. After taxes, he's got $60,000, which is enough to buy him a nice car and a bunch of funny shoes."
Ranked the 14th best draft prospect in the country by Baseball America magazine, the 6-4, 180-pound outfielder and his father reportedly told interested teams that Michael was seeking an $800,000 package, about $500,000 more than usual for a high draft pick. Recently, first-round draft choice Tyler Houston signed a package for a reported $241,500 making him the highest paid prospect ever.
"The $800,000 was really blown out of proportion," said Beverly Hills baseball Coach Bill Erickson. "Mr. Moore is a very successful real estate man and he was just feeling out the market."
Since the draft, the Moores have lowered the figure significantly. Moore said his son would sign with Toronto if the next offer was in the range of $240,000 after taxes.
"When we sat down the other day, I gave them the real number, the number that makes sense to our family in our situation," Moore said. "We've done all we can do; now it's up to them.
"It said in the paper the other day that Michael is a Bruin. Well, as far as I'm concerned, he's still living out his fantasy of being a Toronto Blue Jay. He'll be a Toronto Blue Jay until Aug. 15 (the first day of the UCLA training camp). It's out of our hands."
Surprisingly, Michael is noncommittal about which sport he would prefer to play--probably because neither baseball nor football is his favorite sport--and acts more like a practical businessman forecasting future dividends.
"Basketball is the most fun to play, but it's such a long shot (to become professional) compared to football or baseball. I had fun playing in high school, but in college it conflicts with both baseball and football, so I can't play," said Moore, who averaged 19.3 points a game in high school and was offered a basketball scholarship to Stanford.
If Moore attends UCLA, he will be able to play both football and baseball and possibly pursue a professional career in either sport.
At Beverly Hills, Moore, a wide receiver, caught 54 passes for 1,195 yards and 10 touchdowns.
On the diamond, he was equally impressive. He batted .439 and in the past two seasons was thrown out only once in 63 attempted steals.
"He's a once in a lifetime athlete, especially around here," said Erickson. "He's got all the tools and that why he's so in demand. And the truth is he hasn't even scratched the surface of how good he can be."
Another incentive to attend UCLA is its proximity to his home.
"I would love to go to UCLA and live at school to get the whole college experience. Why should I want go to far away from here? This is nice," Moore said.
Nevertheless, while he says he would love to play college football, he is worried about the possibility of a career-ending injury. He is also apprehensive that playing college baseball might hamper his progress during the next four years, as pro scouts are eager to tell him.
"We like to get the kids young so that we can project what they're going do," said Toronto scout Steve Minor. "If in his first year (in college) Michael hits .400, well, he's going to face the same level of pitching for the next four years. You're not going to improve that way. You improve by moving up from Double A to Triple A to the big leagues."
Minor also indicated that the two sides are far apart monetarily: "We've got to approach every kid the same way, whether they come from a very poor family or if they have money. What it comes down to is if he wants to play, he'll play even if the money is borderline. When you really want to play, money doesn't matter."
Toronto recently tried to entice Michael emotionally by allowing him to take batting practice during a Toronto trip to Anaheim. Although Michael, who was a Blue Jays fan long before the draft, was soft-spoken about the thrill of being with his favorite team, his father was more expressive:
"I told them (Toronto) that it was a good thing I didn't have my checkbook with me. If I did, I would've written out a check right there and then. I felt so good to see my boy in a big-league uniform."
Batting practice with the Blue Jays may have swayed the Moores temporarily, but it did not make Michael unrealistic about signing a pro contract.
"The only deterrent about baseball is the minors," Michael said. "I'd be a lot more gung-ho about baseball if it wasn't for the two or three years traveling around on buses. That's not exactly the ideal life style."
In the idyllic world of Beverly Hills, the proposition of long bus rides and inexpensive motels as compared to a college education and living in Westwood could sound preposterous. Then again, turning your back on a shot at the major leagues could appear equally as silly.
With so many choices, Moore certainly has a lot on his mind these days.
It's a tough life, but someone's got to live it. Michael Moore is just happy it's him.