Conference Connection

Te Life-Long Pitch “The Rookie” Jim Morris to keynote at STN EXPO on keeping promises, pursuing goals and mentoring others


t all happened because of a promise. In or- der to rally his players, Jim Morris, who was a high school physical science teacher and baseball coach in Big Lake, Texas, told his team that he would try out for Major League Baseball if they won the district championship. In the spring of 1999, the Reagan County

High School baseball team emerged trium- phant as title champions and Morris kept his end of the bargain, attending tryouts for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Despite his age (he was 35 at the time) and lack of interest by scouts, Morris was given a shot and pitched 12 consecutive 98-mph fastballs. Later that year, and after close deliberation with his

family, Morris signed a contract with the Devil Rays. Morris still holds the distinction of being the oldest rookie to join a MLB team. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it was made into a 2002 movie, starring Dennis Quaid. Te Rookie was well received by critics and audiences alike, turning the movie into a box office success. STN EXPO attend- ees will hear details firsthand on July 25, during Morris’ keynote address sponsored by Blue Bird Corporation along with Hendrickson and ROUSH CleanTech. “Te movie shows several struggles I have dealt with in life that many others have faced: marriage, family, unrealized dreams, hopes and new dreams. Anyone can relate to everyday life and the difficulties we face. I enjoy telling my own story while poking fun at myself and helping my audience to feel at home,” Morris said. Morris’ career was brief, lasting from 1999-2000,

where he pitched 21 games as a relief pitcher for the Devil Rays. His debut on the mound brought him up against Royce Clayton of the Texas Rangers, who Morris struck out in four pitches. He wrapped up his major league career with a 0-0 record and an ERA of 4.80 with 13 strikeouts. His tenure as a professional baseball player may have been short, but he was finally able to achieve the long sought-after dream of pitching in the big leagues. A promising high school player, Morris had been drafted in 1983 by the Milwaukee Brewers, but his career was marred by reoccurring arm injuries. He never advanced past Single A. Tere’s an early scene in the film when Morris asks his

28 School Transportation News • JUNE 2016

high school team why it lost a particular game. None of the players can give him a clear reason. Te question was rhetorical, anyway, because Morris already had the answer. “You quit. You quit out there. You quit on me and, worse, you quit on yourselves,” his character said. Te conviction that giving up is not an option, that succumbing to disappointment is only a failure to yourself, has driven Morris throughout his life, and this belief is what

pushed him to give the Majors another shot, win or lose. Following his retirement, Morris released his memoir,

Te Oldest Rookie, which was the basis of the feature film. He has also taken his message on the road, traveling the world as a highly valued keynote speaker. “Now, I have the honor of speaking to people all over the world and encourage them to never give up and follow their dreams.” he said. In addition to his motivational speaking tours, Morris

has recently developed the Jim the Rookie Morris Foundation, which aims to give back to impoverished communities nationwide. “I am really the guy next door who happened to have an extraordinary thing happen to him,” Morris said. ●

Morris pitched in 21 MLB games, debuting for the Tampa Bay Rays against Royce Clayton of the Texas Rangers and struck him out in only four pitches.

Jim Morris, 2016 STN Keynote Speaker

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