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Jim Morris; Inspiration for the Movie “The Rookie”

Updated on August 14, 2017
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Readmikenow likes sports, professional and amateur. He especially likes sports stories of courage and overcoming adversity.

Jim Morris pitching for Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Jim Morris pitching for Tampa Bay Devil Rays

He initially pursued his dream of being a pitcher for a professional baseball team during the early 1980s. Jim Morris was unable to progress to a major league team at this time. After problems with his pitching arm, he gave up on his dream and became a high school physical science teacher. He was also a coach for the high school’s baseball team. The players on his team saw Morris pitch. All of them felt he was an excellent player. They kept telling him to make another attempt at playing for a major league baseball team. One year, Jim Morris made a deal with the players on the baseball team he coached. He promised if they won the championship, he would once again tryout for a professional baseball team. When his team won the title, Morris upheld his end of the bet. He attended a tryout for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. The team's scout didn't want to provide this opportunity, but was touched by the promise Morris made to his players. Jim Morris did well enough to be signed to play for a Minor League baseball team. He did well enough to get a pitching spot with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a few months later. At the age of 35, and ten years after he made his first attempt to be a professional baseball player, Jim Morris made his first Major League baseball appearance.


Early Years

James Samuel Morris Jr. was born on January 19, 1965, in Brownwood, Texas. His father was in the Navy. He spent quite a bit of his childhood moving to different places around the world. Morris had an interest in baseball at an early age. He started playing the game at the age of three. His family eventually settled in Brownwood, Texas and Morris attended Brownwood High School. The school did not have a baseball program, so he was unable to play baseball. He was a star athlete on the school's football team. This team was able to win the state championship. Morris liked playing football but never gave up on his dream to play professional baseball.

First Professional Baseball Career

During the amateur baseball draft held in 1982, Morris was selected by the New York Yankees but did not sign with them. During the 1983 amateur baseball draft, Morris was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers and did sign with them. During his time with the Brewers minor league team, he experienced a number of arm injuries. Morris was released from the organization in 1987. He was unable to move past the single A team level. In 1989, he signed with the Chicago White Sox. Again, Morris was unable to progress beyond the single A team. After this disappointment, he left baseball. Morris then moved to Big Lake, Texas and became physical science teacher at Reagan County High School. He also became a coach for the school’s baseball team.

Student Challenge

Jim Morris had been retired from playing professional baseball for over a decade. He was giving a speech to his high school baseball team. The speech emphasized the importance of having a dream and working hard to achieve it. This was when the high school players challenged Morris to be a man of action and not just words. They challenged him to pursue the dream he had had so many years earlier of becoming a major league pitcher. It was then that Morris made a bet with the members of the baseball team. He told them if they were able to with the District Championship, he would then participate in a try out for a major league baseball team. His high school team won the championship. Jim Morris then tried out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. During the tryout, Morris was able to throw 12 consecutive pitches that were fastballs timed at 98 mph. Jim Morris was offered a contract to play for the Double-A Orlando Rays. After a pitching a few games for this team, Morris was moved up to the Triple A Durham Bulls. He had several solid pitching performances with this team.

Jim Morris baseball player
Jim Morris baseball player

Major League Pitcher

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays offered Jim Morris a chance to pitch with them when the team's rosters expanded. On September 18, 1999, the Texas Rangers and their ace hitter Royce Clayton faced the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and their pitcher, a 35-year-old rookie named Jim Morris. During his first time in the batter's box, Clayton was struck out on four pitches from Morris. The long held dream of being a major league pitcher was now realized. He pitched in four more games that year. During the 2000 major league baseball season, Morris pitched in a total of 16 games. This was when he began to experience problems with his pitching arm as he had previously. The last game in the major leagues he pitched was on May 9, 2000, against the New York Yankees. A game his team lost.

Poster for the movie "The Rookie"
Poster for the movie "The Rookie"

Movie

The story of Jim Morris motivated the creation of a movie titled “The Rookie.” Jim Morris was played by Dennis Quaid. Audiences connected with the real high school teacher, and baseball coach, who achieved his dream of being a professional baseball player. They loved how he was motivated by the support of players he coached. It was released on March 29, 2002, and directed by John Lee Hancock. This move won an ESPY award for being the sports film of the year. It was also nominated for a Critics Choice Award. The magazine Sports Illustrated voted it as one of the five greatest baseball films to have ever been created.

Jim Morris as motivational speaker
Jim Morris as motivational speaker

Motivational Speaker

Jim Morris now lives with his family near San Antonio, Texas. He travels around the United States and goes to other countries telling his story and inspiring people. He can connect to audiences as a person who struggled and still found what was necessary in himself to overcome great odds and succeed. He will tell people how he did benefit from the opportunities associated with having a second chance. He always emphasizes dedication to family. During his talk, Morris will often share the story about how he was at spring training camp. He got a call from his 10-year-old son wanting to speak with his father and wanting to know when his father was going to be home. Morris left for his home and son within the hour. He is quoted in an interview as saying playing professional baseball for a major league team was everything he dreamed it would be.

Jim Morris story

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    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      12 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good job. He pitched 16+ more major league games than most would-be-professional pitchers get a chance to pitch. Love this story. "It's never too late to become the person you dreamed of being."

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