Levi Moon never thought he’d ever get bitten by the travel bug.
What started as a one-year experiment for the Red Deer native has turned into several seasons of jet-setting around Europe playing baseball.
After stops in Germany, Austria and Australia, he has spent the past two summers in Sweden with the Stockholm Monarchs.
In his first season in Sweden, Moon hit .370 in 14 games with a home run and 26 runs batted in, and followed that up with a .287 batting average with six doubles and 19 RBI in 2023.
The Monarchs finished second in their division with a 15-9 record, just one game back of top spot in what was another memorable summer for the Alberta product.
“I love Sweden,” Moon told Alberta Dugout Stories: The Podcast.
“The summers there are just beautiful, the weather is great, the ball is good and the people are unmatched – it’s amazing.”
If he does return to Europe in 2024, the 27-year-old says the Monarchs are the team he wants to return to. But as always, he’s keeping his options open.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
A multi-sport star growing up, Moon’s two main passions were hockey and baseball.
Levi had a connection to hockey with his father, Cam, who was then the radio play-by-play voice of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels. But his dad, who is now the radio voice of the Edmonton Oilers, also loves baseball and was the one who introduced him to the game.
After receiving an offer to attend Badlands Baseball Academy in Oyen, the Red Deer Minor Baseball Braves product dropped hockey following his second year of bantam.
It almost became a preview of what was to come for Moon, as he became acclimated to the idea of traveling around Western Canada with the Badgers.
He played well enough to earn a scholarship offer at Niagara County Community College in Sanborn, New York.
“I couldn’t stay healthy to save my life,” Moon said of his two-year experience with the Thunder Wolves.
He returned home to Alberta and found a place at Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA), where he was able to get himself back into strong playing shape and ready to take another step in his baseball journey.
NEXT FLIGHT OUT
Like many North Americans, Moon says he had no idea there was baseball to be played overseas until a couple of chance conversations with teammates Rhett Feser and Anthony Buonaiuto.
It wasn’t something he had really thought of, but was willing to explore after his days at PBA were over.
“They gave me the good and the bad and I got to process it a little bit,” Moon recalled.
“It kind of piqued my interest and I ended up looking into it a little more.”
Then in 2016, he spent time with his hometown senior men’s team, the Red Deer Riggers, and heard more about baseball in Europe from teammates like Aaron Dunsmore and Jaret Chatwood.
“I chatted with them about their experiences and they had the same advice that if you get that opportunity, don’t let it pass you by and jump at it.”
Moon, who spent part of the 2015 season with the Moose Jaw Miller Express of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL), was still on the fence about it until one of his final discussions with PBA head coach Todd Hubka.
That’s when he received a piece of advice that would change his life.
“He (Hubka) said, ‘Right now, you don’t have a career here (in Alberta), you don’t have a long-term girlfriend or wife, you don’t have bills to pay, you don’t have a house,’” the utilityman remembered. “He’s like, ‘Worst-case scenario, you go over there, you absolutely hate it, get on a train, go to Italy, travel a little bit, enjoy your summer, then come home.’”
Moon remembers walking out of Hubka’s office believing he was “absolutely right” and that there was no reason not to get on the next flight out to Germany.
MEMORIES FOR A LIFETIME
While the on-field experience in his first summer abroad wasn’t all that he thought it would be, Moon says it opened up another door for him.
He says it was there where he was noticed by someone from Australia, who gave him an offer to head there that winter.
“I’d never really been a huge travel bug before then, but Australia is one place I always wanted to go,” Moon said. “When I got that opportunity, I wasn’t going to miss that one and I’m really glad I did that.”
It opened up the doors for him to play in both Austria and Sweden, and he has tried to soak in as many of the moments – both good and bad – when he steps onto a new field.
Off the field, Moon has been able to play the part of tourist when the baseball schedule lightens up and he’s taking full advantage of it.
He says one of the most beautiful places he’s ever been is Slovenia, adding he has numerous stories to tell from every trip he’s taken.
Every new country Moon visits brings a new experience and new memories, something he has really come to appreciate as he gets older.
COACHING THE FUTURE STARS
While he hopes to play baseball for as long as he can, Moon has also been actively planning for his next steps in the game.
Over the last couple of years, he’s been able to dive into a new passion: coaching.
Moon coached at Neutral Hills Baseball Academy for a year, and then when he started playing in Sweden, he started working with their U19 program.
It’s opened his eyes to how new the game of baseball is to many young people in Sweden, as he says the team has a couple of athletes who could make the jump to U.S. college programs and a couple of athletes who have almost never seen a baseball before.
It’s a culture shock, but it also allows Moon to get back to the fundamentals of baseball and have some fun with the game in a new way.
“I’ve really enjoyed those experiences and they’re starting to get me excited just as much as playing,” he said. “So I think pursuing coaching is in the near-future.”
Like any offseason though, Moon is going through his usual routine of taking some time off, evaluating how the season went, and determining what opportunities might lie ahead.
He says the Monarchs are in a position to play for a European championship in 2024, and he would like to experience that.
And while he doesn’t have any places on a bucket-list to travel or play in, Moon does say he’s had some conversations about heading to New Zealand at some point.
He admits it doesn’t take long for him to get stir-crazy sitting in one spot for too long, so he’s always open to options, especially for as long as baseball is willing to give him the opportunity.
“It’s kind of crazy to think about it – but I don’t know if I ever would have been here without baseball,” Moon smiles. “I probably wouldn’t have even ended up going to Europe and checking things out just as a traveler.”
No matter the next step along his baseball journey, adventure certainly awaits.