Originally created 03/15/05

'Rookie' shares his story at ASU



Those who hadn't heard the Jim Morris life story heard it firsthand Monday at Augusta State University. Morris earned a standing ovation before he addressed the Boys and Girls Club of Augusta's 18th Annual Steak and Burger Dinner.

After all, that kind of stuff becomes commonplace when one's life is a Disney movie. The kids ate the steak. Adults ate hamburgers. And that was the least interesting thing.

Morris earned national acclaim in 1999 with an inspiring return to baseball that culminated when he reached the major leagues as its only 35-year-old rookie.

"I remember striking out Pat Burrell in the Arizona Fall League and he feebly swung at a third strike that was going 102 miles an hour," Morris said. "He threw his bat to the ground and said 'You are supposed to be at home playing catch with your kids in a back yard. This isn't fair. You're not supposed to be doing this.'"

Hollywood captured a man defying age and medical opinion with every blistering fastball. After a failed turn as a pro in his youth because of injury, the high school science teacher and coach defied reality by throwing a baseball 100 mph in his mid-30s.

"I'm very faith-based," Morris said. "God had a plan for me. A lot of people don't have faith there's something bigger than themselves. They put all the eggs in one box and say 'This is going to happen now or it's not going to.' When it doesn't happen, they walk away and wonder what if. You never walk away if you have faith."

A guidance counselor told him earlier in life he was too stupid for college based on his SAT scores.

"He's not a guidance counselor anymore," Morris said. "He works in a video rental store. Renting out movies like the one of my life story to other people."

His life was so rich Hollywood could only spice up one thing.

"Me throwing the ball on the side of the highway next to a speed limit gauge was the only thing that wasn't true," Morris said.

The rest was as sweet as life gets. His rookie card was worth one penny the day before the movie came out. The day after The Rookie hit theatres, it was worth 30 bucks.

"My first jog from the bullpen in the majors my whole life flashed by," Morris said. "The good, the bad, the mediocre, the up and down all flashed in front. The one thought in my mind was I wouldn't want to change a thing about the journey. The ride of chasing my dream was what made me who I am."

Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or jeff.sentell@augustachronicle.com