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Jim Morris

Derailed By Arm Injuries

As a pitcher in the Brewers' minor league farm system, Morris was plagued by a series of arm injuries. Chronic pain in his pitching arm led to several operations,

Jim Morris

including one that involved replacing a tendon in his left elbow with one from his right ankle. But the surgeries failed to alleviate the pain, and Morris was forced to retire from baseball in 1988, at age 24, before he had graduated from Class A of the minor leagues.

Leaving baseball behind, Morris set out to pursue a career in teaching. He obtained a bachelor's degree, and took a job as a high school science teacher and baseball coach in Big Lake, Texas. With his wife, Lorri, whom he'd married in his minor league days, he raised three children in the town of San Angelo. Over the years, Morris kept fit and participated in many sports. When he was 27 he became an All-American punter in college football. He played baseball in the local "beer leagues" and pitched at batting practice to the high school team he coached.

Morris challenged his young ballplayers with fast pitches, and his Reagan County High School Owls became strong hitters. After batting practice Morris would sometimes ask students to stay and catch for him so he could keep his arm in shape. It was here that the former minor league player let loose his powerful fastballs. "He'd just unleash, balls coming so hard and so fast, it hurt my hand sometimes," one young player told Dawn Fratangelo NBC-TV's Dateline. The Owls began to suspect that their coach had the talent for the major leagues.

As the Owls prepared for the 1999 season, Morris urged them to try to make the playoffs that year. While he was giving a pep talk one day, his players interrupted him. "They stopped me mid-speech," Morris told Dateline, "and they said, you know, 'Wait a minute. You're sitting her preaching to us and telling us all this stuff that we need to do, and yet, you're sitting here coaching and teaching and not trying to play baseball, and you throw harder than anybody we've ever seen.'" That day, Morris made a deal with his players. If they made the playoffs that year, he would try out for the next major league team that passed through the area.

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