Life moves full throttle, no brakes.
Former Coastal Carolina baseball standout Mike Morrison knows that better than most. Mere days after reaching the pinnacle of his college career, the Gilbert native found himself on the road headed toward his first assignment in Kannapolis, N.C., as a minor leaguer.
“There was no down time. I was home for like two days, and then (the Chicago White Sox) sent me straight to (Low-A) Kannapolis,” he said. “So I got in my car one morning, hadn’t thrown a baseball in two days, got up there and the coach asks if I can pitch that night. Obviously, the answer was yes to that.”
Since the Chanticleers’ College World Series conquest, Morrison had returned only once — at the 2016 team’s ring ceremony in February. But with his promotion last month in the White Sox’s farm system — moving from Low-A Kannapolis to High-A Winston-Salem — that was certain to change.
It did on Wednesday, the Coastal Carolina legend stepping into the familiar confines of TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, returning to the venue where his college baseball career began. Morrison and his Winston-Salem teammates are in town the next few days, taking on the hometown Myrtle Beach Pelicans in a four-game set between Carolina League foes.
According to the 23-year-old hurler, his team’s visit to the area was circled on the calendar for any of a number of reasons.
“It’s awesome, a lot of family and friends will be here (Wednesday) … I say family and friends, but mainly I’m talking about my (former) teammates, coaches and stuff,” he said. “It’s really cool, also because this is where it all began. We played our freshman and sophomore years (at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark).
“So now, being back as a professional, where I watched (the Pelicans) play on Thursday nights, it’s really interesting.”
If you ask (any of my former Coastal Carolina teammates), you hop right in (the minors) it’s a lot of the same things we did at school with the workout programs, the lifting, the running and (batting practice) everyday. The routine is very similar, though the travel is different, there’s a game just about every day. But the way (Coastal Carolina baseball coach Gary Gilmore) runs practices, you feel like you played a game everyday.
Former Coastal Carolina pitcher and current Winston-Salem Dash reliever Mike Morrison
Oddly, he will also be in the same dugout used by Coastal Carolina during its time in the ballpark.
“Honestly, (CCU baseball coach Gary Gilmore) used to have us in the visitor’s dugout during (intrasquad) scrimmages,” Morrison said. “He wanted us burning in the sun, sweating and losing 15 pounds a day instead of being in a nice, shaded dugout.”
Described as a “high school environment on a college campus,” Morrison said Coastal Carolina afforded him a lot on and off the field. He particularly credits the way in which Gilmore runs his program as a reason he and many of his Coastal Carolina teammates have been drafted, and experienced success in the minors.
“If you ask (any of my former Coastal Carolina teammates), you hop right in (the minors) it’s a lot of the same things we did at school with the workout programs, the lifting, the running and (batting practice) everyday,” he said. “The routine is very similar, though the travel is different, there’s a game just about every day. But the way (Gilmore) runs practices, you feel like you played a game everyday.”
Guess proof is in the pudding.
Making 23 appearances in Kannapolis, Morrison was 1-0 with a 0.53 ERA, converting 10 of 11 save opportunities. In those outings, he gave up two runs on nine hits, striking out 42 batters.
The former Coastal Carolina standout has seen action in four games since his call-up to the High-A level, yielding two runs on six hits in six innings of work.
While top priority the next several days is to help the Dash to a series win, Morrison is also looking forward to making a trip back to his old stomping grounds.
“I’m staying with one of my buddy Tyler Chadwick, one of my best friends, so we’ll ride around check some things out,” he said. “I know there is a youth camp at Coastal, so I’m going to go up there and see all the coaches and talk to the kids. It’s that stuff you miss (after graduating) … after spending four years with your teammates, those are the things you tend to miss.”