Questioning Authority with Jim Morrison

Columbus' winning skipper bringing straight-forward attitude to Vero

(Vero Beach Devil Rays)

February 12, 2008 4:00 AM

There are thousands of Minor Leaguers trying to make it to the Majors, and who better to show them the way than former big-league stars and journeymen? Each week, talks with a Major Leaguer-turned-Minor League manager or coach to get his unique take on life down on the farm.

Jim Morrison was an infielder drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates as the 22nd overall pick in the 1972 draft and played 12 Major League seasons with the Phillies, White Sox, Pirates, Braves and Tigers. He established career highs of 23 homers and 88 RBIs with the Pirates and was named the team's Most Valuable Player in 1986. He retired during the 1988 season.

Morrison has been coaching at the Minor League level since 2000, and he is entering his second year in the Rays organization. Last season, Morrison led the Class A Columbus Catfish to the South Atlantic League title as the squad swept the West Virginia Power in three games in the SAL Championship Series. This year he takes the reins of the Class A Advanced Vero Beach Devil Rays.

MiLB: What do you remember most about your first time around in the Minor Leagues?

JM: I just remember the serious nature of everything. It wasn't college ball anymore, it was a big responsibility and everything you do is watched. I felt a little more mature than some guys having been to college. The bottom line for me was that you get paid based on how you perform, and that's how I went about my business. Have times changed that much? How different are the Minors from when you were a player?

JM: One thing that stands out is the improved quality of the facilities. The conditions these kids get to work out in are impressive. I think the kids today are a lot smarter and bigger than they were. But the game still comes down to catch, run, throw and hit. Life in the Minors can be surreal. What's your favorite tale of the Minors, either as a player or on the bench?

JM: Back when I was playing in the Minors, there was a guy named Max Patkin, who was known as the Clown Prince of Baseball. He was a former Minor League player who had started this comedy act at Minor League parks around the country. Well, I didn't know who he was at the time, and I came up to bat one game during the middle of his act. He calls timeout, grabs me and kisses me on the cheek. I thought to myself, "You gotta be kidding me." Well, the next pitch I hit for a home run. How have teammates you played with in the bigs reacted to your current gig?

JM: I see some of my old teammates at different camps from time to time. Some of them still work in baseball, some don't. You can't just sit around in retirement, you have to be doing something. I love the game of baseball and feel blessed to be where I am. I just try to teach the game the right way and convey the right messages to all my players. Do the guys on your team know much about you and your history as a player?

JM: I think you just go about your business and let your past speak for itself. The kids these days are really computer-savvy, it's so simple for them to just look me up on Google or wherever. They know where you've been and what you've done. I think it gives them a greater drive to succeed knowing that you've been where they want to go. What have the players on your team taught you? Do they keep you up-to-date on pop culture?

JM: I'm kind of a traditionalist in a sense, so we laugh about certain things from time to time. They understand I want what's best for them. They laugh at some of the things I say, but they're all good young men. What kind of reaction do you get from fans?

JM: I get some letters in the mail and autograph requests in the mail from some of the fans that see I'm back in the game as a manager. The fans like to see the players they watched continue to stay in the game, so it's all very positive. What city or cities do you most look forward to stopping in during the season?

JM: Managing in Columbus last year was exciting. All the stops in the South Atlantic League are great. Greensboro, Charleston and Asheville are all great towns. The quality of the stadiums and fields is great anywhere you go, and the fans always come out. What's the toughest part of the job?

JM: It's hard to say what the toughest part is, I feel blessed to be where I'm at. I always work hard to get the best out of the players. It can be frustrating when someone is not progressing the way you'd hope they would. The rewards of seeing players move up the ranks is great, though. Have you collected your baseball cards throughout the years?

JM: I'm not really a big collector to be honest. I gave away most of my things from my playing days -- hats, gloves, bats. The only thing I have is a glove from 1984. You don't need much as a manager, maybe one glove and a few hats.

Steve Conley is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More