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Grippin’ Seams And Chasin’ Dreams:  Michael Morales

May 6, 2024

In 2021, the Seattle Mariners did a rare thing within the Front Office. They selected a young pitcher out of a small high school from Pennsylvania with their 3rd round pick in the MLB draft. It seemed out of character for them until you meet who Michael Morales is. SSU:

In 2021, the Seattle Mariners did a rare thing within the Front Office. They selected a young pitcher out of a small high school from Pennsylvania with their 3rd round pick in the MLB draft. It seemed out of character for them until you meet who Michael Morales is.

SSU: Where were you on draft day? What were you doing? What was your reaction?
MM: I was at home at my house with some family. We kept it real small- there were probably only around 10-15 people there, but when the call came through…it was a weird day, you know. It goes so fast but feels so slow at the same time! I still don't know how to put words to it, but it was really exciting- just all the emotions kind of came out at one time.

SSU: Had they been in contact with you, or did you know that the Mariners were going to draft you so high?
MM: A little bit. I would say they were the most honest with me. I kind of had a decent idea of where I stood with them. I knew that they liked me- they were in constant contact. Usually, there's kind of like a dead period, like after the season, but before the draft where kind of all the teams just kind of go away, do their stuff. Through that period, they were the only team that I kind of continued to hear from. So obviously you know, when the pick came through and I saw I was drafted, it was a surprise, but when it was the Mariners, it made sense.

SSU: You had committed to Vanderbilt? How did they convince you to walk away from that and come straight to the pros?
MM: I don't know. I mean, it wasn't too tough. I felt like that's where I belonged in a sense. I was ready for that challenge, I would say. I always wanted to sign out of high school from a young age. That was a goal. When I first found out as a young kid that was an opportunity that’s kind of where the goal went.

SSU: When did you start playing and pitching?
MM: Oh man. My mom got me into tee-ball when I was in preschool so five, I believe. Honestly, real soon after that, I was probably pitching by like six or seven. I kind of remember making an All-Star game in this little league that we were playing in. I was like, the youngest kid that they allowed to pitch. That was the first time I actually got on the mound. There were no restrictions. I think I probably got into pitching, like, six years old.

SSU: Do you have a favorite high school moment playing baseball?
MM: Yeah, I mean, there were tons. I came from a small town so obviously the team was always super close-knit. We won districts and made a couple of state championship runs. I took us out of the state championship runs, though unfortunately every time we lost I was on the mound. But, we won districts when I hit a home run! I think it was our first time since like 80-something, I believe. Just a lot of energy with your friends in front of the school.

SSU: We know that obviously Funko Field is your favorite field to play at now, but do you have a favorite one other than Funko that you played at?
MM: I got the opportunity to pitch in Fenway Park. I grew up a Red Sox fan, so that was amazing. My mom and my grandma are both Red Sox fans. My grandma was able to see me throw at Fenway. I got the opportunity to throw there twice, so that was really cool. The first one gave a home run over the Monster. I don't know, what else are you going to do to Fenway?

SSU: It's a rite of passage at Fenway!
MM: Yeah, yeah. The second outing was a lot smoother, but yeah, growing up a Red Sox fan, you're having a chance just to experience Fenway Park was amazing.

SSU: How many pitches do you throw?
MM: I throw five. We just added the gyro slider in spring training to make it five.

SSU: We noticed you mix your pitches well and have a wide variety of speeds. Kind of a Jamie Moyer style more than a fireballer. Is that just the type of pitcher that you ended up being or something you worked towards?
MM: Yeah, I think coming out of high school I was really only kind of a two-pitch guy and I liked to throw a lot with a fastball. When I got into pro ball trying to add in and actually commit to throwing more pitches was a little bit tougher for me. Now that the arsenal has gotten a little bit bigger and I have a much better understanding, now it makes it a lot easier to kind of press those buttons and throw the different pitches.
Still, it’s something we're working on, especially adding that fifth pitch. You know, trying to figure out where everything fits. But yeah, I mean, the one thing coming into this year is just trying to dial up the usage and see where the arsenal plays best.

SSU: Do you have a favorite pitch that you throw?
MM: Good question. They gave me so many new pitches coming into this year. Probably the change-up. I'm still learning that one. It's been a tough pitch to master. It took me probably about a year, year and a half almost to kind of get the shape to stabilize. Now we're working on the command, but I get a ton of whiffs on it. It's a fun pitch to have- just trying to use it more. So, I'd say I've been having fun throwing a change-up.

SSU: What's your impression of Everett? I mean, the weather, the rain. Does it get you down? Hasn't been warm yet this year, though we’re famous for our summers.
MM: So, I mean, being from Pennsylvania, this is honestly, this is kind of like my spring, you know what I mean? I'm used to it. I've had plenty of starts in the snow and stuff like that. We haven't had any snow, so it's warmer, a little warmer than what I'm used to. But yeah, honestly, I mean, it reminds me of home. I honestly, I really love it. I feel safe. It seems like a safe area. Seems comfortable. So close to the water. Love that. Very nice.

SSU: What do you want to do with your career when baseball's over in 20+ years?
MM: It'd be really hard to, stay away from the game. So, I'd probably try and find a coaching job, just some way to stay around the game. But I mean, if the game ever tired me out, and I don't think it would, I'd honestly probably try and go like become a cop. Yeah. I've always been interested in that. My family comes from a military background and kind of grew up around that in a sense. But just, you know, another way to just get out in the community and find a way to give back to it. There's always plenty you can do with baseball, but I think law enforcement and the military take it to an extreme. I'd love to just be a part of that class.

SSU: Is that what you were thinking if you hadn't joined the Mariners and gone on to Vanderbilt?
MM: Yeah. I always was going to try and get into that. At Vanderbilt, I wanted to do psych just to see what I can do in law enforcement. And you know, with giving back to the community like that. There's unfortunately a mental health crisis in America and it’s everywhere. If I can be on the street somewhere and, have a little bit of a background like that, I might be able to help out somebody.

SSU: What's your favorite sports-related movie?
MM: Probably Major League. Yeah, I'm a big Major League fan. I love that movie.

SSU: After your baseball career is over, who would play you in a movie about you?
MM: That's a tough one. Any actor from any time period?

SSU: No one ever picks Steve McQueen, unfortunately.
MM: Hmm, I don't know, that's tough.

SSU: Bryce Miller, when we talked to him a couple of years ago said, the guy with the mustache, Kurt Russell.
MM: Okay. Alright. Let me think here, I'm bad with my actors. Gosh, maybe Owen Wilson? Yeah. I might, I might throw it to him. He seems like a goofy guy. Might be tough to look a little like me, but I think the characteristics might be there.

PHOTO CREDIT: Shari Sommerfeld

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