The Tampa Bay Rays hitters could benefit from the Jim “The Rookie” Morris effect this season.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times recently wrote an article about the advantages and disadvantages the Tampa Bay Rays have in facing one of the most vaunted pitchings staffs in the league… every day in practice.
It’s a great article with some very interesting quotes and stories, such as when Yoshi Tsutsugo had to face Jose Alvarado two days in a row and hitting coach Chad Mottola had to assure him not to worry, Jose Alvarado is not a normal pitcher. Please check it out and subscribe to the Tampa Bay Times.
Hitters are benefiting from facing the league’s top bullpen from last season and one of the deadliest collections of starting pitchers in the league. It reminds me of the story of Jim “The Rookie” Morris.
You may remember the Disney movie “The Rookie” starring Dennis Quaid, which immortalized the incredible story of a high school science teacher who tried out for the Tampa Bay Rays, and three months later he made his major-league debut.
See, Jim took over as the baseball coach of a Reagan County High School team that was coming off of a 9-13 season. They started playing well under Morris and he made a deal with them. If they won the district championship then he would fulfill his end of the bargain and tryout for a major-league franchise.
Tampa Bay Rays – Why the Major Leagues?
It wasn’t random. The kids knew he loved the game and he had previously had a minor-league career derailed by injuries. In fact, a doctor once told Jim that he would never pitch again.
Yet, here he was, working with the kids every day. Jim would throw them batting practice focusing on smooth mechanics and getting the ball over the plate so he could analyze the swings of his players.
The kids knew he was hard to hit, but he used to pitch in the minor leagues, so that’s fair. He kept throwing to them without the slightest clue that he was throwing major-league heat to these high school kids.
Reagan County went from nine wins to district champions. They had been hitting major-league pitching every day in practice. Opposing teenage opponents might as well have been throwing slow pitch softball. Those kids’ ability to adapt and overcome the challenges he gave them in practice forced Jim Morris to go to a tryout that would forever change his life.
During the tryout was when he learned how hard he was actually throwing. He was throwing 98 mph batting practice to teenagers. Three months later, he made his major-league debut for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and struck out Royce Clayton with the same stuff the Reagan County Owls were spraying all over the field by the end of the season.
Tampa Bay Rays – The Jim Morris Effect
Marc Topkin’s story reminded me of how the quality pitching in practice played such a vital role in turning Reagan County High School from a 9-13 team to district champions.
The Rays finished last season tied for 15th in runs scored. They’ve added a lot of power bats to the equation. Hopefully facing the likes of Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, Jose Alvarado, Nick Anderson, and company in practice will have the “Jim Morris” effect on the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020.
Jim’s new book dives into life after the movie provides incredible insight into his first major-league experience. You can order a copy of Dream Makers here.