By Brandon Walker EBS SPORTS EDITOR
BIG SKY – Many young baseball players dream of playing in the major leagues. For Big Sky local Matt Morris it became a reality. Having retired from the game over 10 years ago, baseball may have one last gift for the hard-throwing righty, as Morris is one of seven eligible athletes to be elected to the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals hall of fame.
Voting for the organization’s 2020 hall of fame class began back on March 1 and will conclude on April 17. Individuals may choose up to two players when casting their vote, as fans will elect two of the seven players on the ballot into this year’s hall of fame class.
Others on the ballot include Keith Hernandez, Edgar Renteria and Lee Smith among others. “It’s an honor to be on [the ballot] with some of these guys. I’m looking at Keith Hernandez…a lot of them that I watched,” Morris said. “I remember Keith from the [New York] Met days growing up in New York. It was my favorite team back then.”
This is the third time on the ballot for Morris. His fist bid came in 2014, the year that the Cardinals franchise created their hall of fame, and again in 2019. “Just to be part of that and mentioned to be enshrined at some point and hopefully never forgotten for what I did on the field will be an absolute, amazing honor,” he said.
Word of Morris’ hall of fame eligibility has spread throughout Big Sky as neighbors and friends show their support. “Last year there was a big push for me and I love it,” Morris said. “It’s humbling for sure…I’m just trying to be a dad now and coach baseball and help out anyway I can. To be supported by so many people in this community, I mean it says a lot for the community.”
Growing up in New York, Morris switched sports with the changing of the seasons, never becoming a one-sport athlete. An avid skier, he also played soccer and basketball as well as baseball.
Starting out in the tee-ball ranks, Morris progressed through little league to senior league to Babe Ruth, before he found himself as the shortstop for Valley Central High School. After a large group of pitchers graduated the previous year, Morris—having not pitched since little league—as well as some of his teammates were thrust into the role their senior season.
“I was left with a couple other guys to see if we could pitch,” Morris said. “I jumped on the mound as a senior and just really had a good arm basically.” Good enough to be drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers’ organization straight out of high school.
Morris then had to make the decision between becoming a major league baseball player or attending college. He chose the latter, becoming a Pirate of Seton Hall University. “One, I get my education, two, I get to really hone my craft. I’m just beginning it basically and this will let me know if I’m good enough to take the next step, so I went to Seton Hall,” Morris said reflecting on the thoughts that went into his choice.
After three years at Seton Hall, Morris was once again offered the chance to join the major leagues when he was selected with the 12th overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1995 Major League Baseball draft, according to mlb.com. This time he elected to become a professional baseball player.
Over the course of his professional career, Morris racked up a multitude of accolades, becoming a two-time all-star and even appearing in the 2004 World Series. Yet, his most memorable experience has nothing to do with personal accomplishments.
“It’s not a game, it’s not a pitch, it’s not a situation,” he said. “It always comes back to doing something. [It] could be fun with the guys and being part of a team like that. What clicks in my mind are not the amazing games or the going to the World Series or anything like that. It’s always just having the camaraderie of the rest of your teammates and being part of a team and having those tight relationships.”
To cast your vote and view the candidates for the 2020 St. Louis Cardinals hall of fame class, visit https://www.mlb.com/cardinals/fans/hof-vote