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Second chances: 'The Rookie' Morris still chasing dreams away from baseball
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Posted on 09/21/2010

Article from The Abilene Reporter-News. View full article here or continue reading below.

Jim Morris knows a thing or two about second chances. His dream was to play professional baseball, but arm injuries derailed his career while playing in the minor leagues in the 1980s. He finally gave up on baseball — his dream — and began teaching and coaching baseball at Reagan County High School in Big Lake.

But, thanks to a promise he made to his high school baseball team, he got a second chance to play pro baseball again and finally realized his dream of playing in the big leagues with Tampa Bay in September of 1999 at the age of 35.

Disney even made a film about his life entitled ‘The Rookie,’ with Dennis Quaid portraying Morris.

So it’s no wonder that Morris would be a champion for second chances. He talked to Abilene Christian University coaches and athletes on Monday at the Teague Center about his life story, their role in mentoring youngsters and his new dream — working as a spokesman for Arms of Hope, a nonprofit Christian organization that helps at-risk children and single mothers.

“I’m a spokesperson for them because I really believe in the values they’re trying to instill in kids who are getting a second chance and getting their education and learning to do things the right way, and the women who are getting out of abusive relationships, women who have small kids,” he said. “They’re giving them an education and free child care. You work, you go to college, you get a job and you get a second chance like I did.”

Morris said he fell in love with the program when it helped his daughter straighten out her life.

“When it helped my daughter, I realized I wanted to help with this as much as I can, because I’ve seen it work firsthand with someone very close to me,” he said. “I want to go out and give everybody else an opportunity to see that too. We’re not just trying to win everybody over to Arms of Hope. We want people to realize that we have these people in our backyards, in our hometowns, our schools. Kids need help. Adults need help. Somebody needs a hand up — not a handout, a hand up. So they can go back and look at their life and go, ‘At that point in my life, I needed somebody, and that person was there.’ These people are everywhere.”

Arms of Hope has two campuses — the Medina Children’s Home in Medina, about 60 miles southwest of San Antonio, and the Boles Children’s Home in Quinlan, about 40 miles northeast of Dallas.

The general public can hear Morris talk at 10 a.m. today and Wednesday in Room 249 of the Biblical Studies Building at ACU. It’s all part of the school’s 104th Summit. It’s free and open to the public.

Morris, a Brownwood graduate who won a state football title with the Lions in 1979, said he’ll talk about his personal story for about 25 minutes, then open things up for questions. Some of that talk will be about dreams. He lived one when he finally got to pitch in the big leagues for Tampa Bay. But he has new ones, now.

“I thought that’s what I wanted forever,” he said. about the baseball dream, “then I realized my kids’ dreams were more important, and I’m watching my kids grow up in front of me and chase their dreams. That’s been incredible. Then God used me in a way that I thought I would never be used. He’s made me a speaker. I’m the last person on the planet whoever thought, ‘I’ll stand in front of people and actually talk.’ It never occurred to me. I never thought that would be a dream.”

It’s been a long, strange road for a guy who drove through Big Lake in his red sports car on his way to his first spring training camp in Arizona after signing with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1983. He wondered why anyone would live in Big Lake. But he ended up there when injuries appeared to have ended his career. However, his high school players made him promise to attend a major league tryout if they won the first district title in the school’s history. They did, and he kept his bargain by going to a Tampa Bay tryout. The rest is the stuff of movies, especially since he was throwing in the high 90s at the tryout — something doctors told him would never happen again after the injuries.

“You never know,” he said. “I think God has been talking to me a long time, and I just turned my back on it because I couldn’t hear it right. I was a kid who got talked down to by his parents, a kid who didn’t do well in high school because nobody expected me to do well. So I lived down to those expectations put upon me. Then I went to college and found out I was smart. Then I wanted to go back and help kids who had similar situations to mine and teach them, ‘You are very much validated with me. I understand your worth. I want to push you. I want to see you go as far as you possibly can and quit letting people put boundaries around you. Reach for the stars and go for them.’ I think God used me the whole way.”

Article from The Abilene Reporter-News. View full article here.

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