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Jim Morris

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Note: This page links to Jim Morris, the big league pitcher who was the inspiration for the movie "The Rookie". For the University of Miami baseball coach, click here.
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James Samuel Morris

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[edit] Biographical Information

Jim Morris became a national celebrity in 1999 when, at the age of 35, he made an improbable comeback ten years after he had originally retired from professional baseball and made his major league debut for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. His story was depicted in the popular Disney movie, "The Rookie."

Originally drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of the January 1983 amateur draft, Morris' first professional career was marred by injury. He underwent four arm operations and only threw 209 minor league innings before retiring in 1989, never progressing beyond the California League.

In the years after 1989, he was a high school physics teacher.

In 1999, Morris was coaching baseball at Reagan County High School in Brownwood, Texas. His players were amazed by the speed of his fastballs in batting practice and encouraged him to make a comeback. Morris struck a deal with his team: he would attend a major league tryout camp if they made the state playoffs. Both sides kept their ends of the bargain.

Morris tried out for the Devil Rays on June 19, 1999 and his fastball was clocked at 98 mph, 12 mph faster than it had been ten years previously. Morris was never able to explain why he began to throw so much harder post-retirement. The Devil Rays signed him and quickly progressed him through their system, starting him with the AA Orlando Rays and then sending him to the Durham Bulls.

In September 1999, Morris was promoted to the major leagues and struck out the first batter he faced, Royce Clayton, on four pitches. He was the oldest rookie to make his big league debut since Minnie Mendoza for the 1970 Twins and the oldest rookie pitcher since Diomedes Olivo for the 1960 Pirates.

Morris made the opening day roster of the 2000 Devil Rays, but was sent to the minors in May and then underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in June. He was in the 2001 Dodgers spring camp as a non-roster invitee, but decided to retire from baseball for good in March 2001, citing shoulder tendinitis and a desire to return to his family.

Although his major league career was brief, his major league career 4.80 ERA (in 21 games) was respectable. He threw 13 strikeouts in 15 innings. He was the same age as teammates Fred McGriff and Ozzie Guillen.

He has written an autobiography, also titled "The Rookie," and also works as a motivational speaker.

He is not the same Jim Morris as the long-time baseball coach at the University of Miami.

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