Unfinished Business

This Just In….

There has been an alleged sighting of a Bob Stoops looking fellow on the campus of USC.  The man, riding a beach cruiser, was wearing sunglasses, a backpack, and grey Chuck Taylors.  Witnesses said that they saw the man with a wedding ring on walk into a classroom at USC and sat down in a nondescript seat without saying a word.

No student asked him if he was supposed to be in the classroom with allegedly caught the man off-guard.  Reports said that the man had come prepared with comments in case he was asked about his legitimacy.  They included, “I’m a Narc”, “No I am making sure my kid comes to class”, and the real answer, “I’m finishing up my degree.”

The “Bob Stoops” look-alike was actually me and I am finishing what I had started 13 years ago.  When I left USC I had a total of 22 units remaining on a Finance degree.  I took 2 correspondence classes in 2003 and 2004 respectively while playing in Houston.  So that left me 14 to go.

The short story is that new Head Coach, Frank Cruz, had interviewed me for an assistant coaching position on the team.  He said that I could take classes while I coached.  It isn’t a paid position, as I am still pursuing broadcasting or a paid coaching job.

So that is what happened.  All of a sudden, I was enrolled in classes and about to return to college 4 days after my 35th birthday.

Coach Mo?

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a guy that jokes around a lot.  But when it comes to coaching, I am very serious.  As I think about it, I have been coached by some of the best in the game.

Tim Ammentorp (Redondo Union HS Baseball Coach) taught me about character and integrity.  He also showed me that different players have to be coached and handled in different ways.  He has been the biggest influence in my life after my Dad.

Mike Gillespie (My coach at USC and now UCI) has one of the highest baseball IQ’s in the game.  He taught me the details of fundamental baseball which are essential to winning.  He also taught me how to care for players and still hold them accountable.

Manny Acta (Manager Cleveland Indians) was my manager in Single A.  He was the person who taught me how to use my hands when fielding a ball.  He also taught me baseball strategy at the professional level.  His baseball IQ is through the roof.

Jackie Moore (Bench Coach Texas Rangers) was my Double A manager.  He taught me how to care for players.  I have never been around another person in the game who cared for his guys the way Jackie does.  He taught me how to respect players, as well as, how to defend them if an umpire gets out of line.

Tony Pena (Bench Coach New York Yankees) was our Triple A manager.  He taught me that you can never let up in the game of baseball.  He also showed me how to identify what players do well so that you can help them get back on track.  Another thing he taught me was how to smile even when the game is crushing your heart.

Jim Hickey (Pitching Coach Tampa Bay Rays) was our Triple A and Big League Pitching Coach in Houston.  Jim taught me that coaches have to be consistent with their actions. He is a master at communication and unmatched in identifying pitcher mechanics.

Mike Maddux (Pitching Coach Texas Rangers) was our Double A pitching coach.  He and I talked almost everyday about baseball an hour before batting practice.  He taught me how to identify holes in batters swings or tendencies of base runners.  I also got to watch him mentor  Roy Oswalt and teach him the value of strikes and balls in terms of efficiency and effectiveness.

Jimy Williams (Manager Houston Astros) taught me how to throw a baseball with accuracy and carry.  He taught me how to teach the fundamentals of throwing which may have been the biggest piece of wisdom I have ever received in ball.  Along with those skills, Jimy taught me how to define rolls for position players so that they can anticipate when they are going to be used according to the situation.

Gene Lamont (Third Base Coach Detroit Tigers) was our third base coach in Houston.  Gene may have the highest baseball IQ of anyone I have met….Robbie Thompson (Third Base Coach Yankees) may have the only mind that rivals Gene’s.  Gene taught me about aggressive base running and understanding the value of each out according to the situation.  He also taught me how to force an opponents into making a low percentage decision.

Joe Girardi (Manager New York Yankees) taught me how to give a team a Vision and purpose.  I have never run so hard in my life as I did with the Yankees.  It was because Joe changed my vision of why we run.  He is a big believer in staying away from the Law of Diminishing Returns.  The Yankees work harder than any team I have been on or can imagine and Joe taught me how to properly rest players.

I feel fortunate to have had these men coach me.  It is now my turn to pass on the wisdom I have learned from coaches who taught me about the game.    My only goal is to make sure that these kids that I coach know that I care about them.  That they understand that this isn’t about me.  It’s about them.


30 Comments on “Unfinished Business”

  1. lisa gray says:

    awesome that you have the guts to go back into classes and finish up your degree at age 35. i don’t guess most guys do go back and finish.

    and it is obvious that some coaches are better than others – even at the big league level. not everyone can teach and not everyone understands that different people are different and respond to different techniques.

  2. Karen says:

    I am so glad that you have decided to complete your degree! I wish you the best of luck in your studies. I have found that students who return to college after several years in the work force or serving our country are much more disciplined and dedicated, because they know why they want the degree, instead of just going to college to avoid the “real world.” It sounds like you have had some outstanding mentors who have shown you what it takes to be a good coach, and I know that you will succeed wherever you end up coaching.
    P.S. It’s too bad that you couldn’t have taken the History of Baseball class this summer for credit; I know the other students would have enjoyed interacting with a professional baseball player (and I would have loved receiving your feedback on the assignments).

    • Karen,

      Maybe I can take that class down the road. I was listening to Bloomberg radio yesterday and one of the commentators said, “You can’t know your future if you don’t know your past.” We have all heard that statement before, but I agree that education takes on a whole new view after some time in the world. I guess that’s perspective. Ironically, I have that for baseball now!


  3. Ed M says:

    “Coach Mo” – Great tribute to the coaches of your past. The USC players should benefit greatly. Thanks for sharing and best wishes in your studies!

    • Thanks Big Ed! My mom is a teacher and she is a great teacher because she cares for her kids. She will tell you that caring for your students is the real breakthrough in getting a kid to learn. Go ahead…call her up and ask her! Hahah!


  4. PhilM says:

    For a second there, I thought you meant the OTHER USC, you know, the National Champions ™ and one of my almae matres. (And you look quite “Steve Spurrier” at first glance in those OU colors!)

    I work in continuing studies at my university, and I’ll echo Karen’s sentiments: for so many of our students, going back to finish is both the toughest and yet most rewarding thing they’ve ever attempted. Good luck and kudos!

    • Actually Phil…I am referring to the “real” USC. My best friend Adam Everett went to South Carolina and he and I would crush each other on that similarity.

      You are right on the tough part. I walked into my first class which was using many greek symbols in equations. I immediately started to chuckle inside saying, “I can’t believe that it is easier to face John Smoltz than it is to understand that economic equation.” After that something interesting happened. I put down my pen, got comfortable in the chair and just listened to the professor. The symbols can be learned after I understand the concept.


  5. PhilM says:

    . . .oh, that’s Bob Stoops in the OU getup. Yeah, there is a resemblance!

  6. bob says:

    Didn’t see Phil Garner’s name mentioned.

    • Hey Bob! Phil is a great guy. I was not trying to exclude anyone. This isn’t about who is on list or who is not. It is about those coaches who taught me something profound in the game. I am very thankful to have Phil Garner, Bud Black, Darren Balsley (Padres Pitching coach), John Savage (UCLA Head Coach and our pitching coach at USC), Jose Cruz, Doug Mansolino, Kevin Long (Yankees hitting coach) who is probably the best hitting coach in the game), and Joe Madden also taught me a lot also.


  7. V says:

    Congrats and good luck, Morgan! You are a perfect example of ‘paying it forward’.

  8. K9 says:

    Any reason for finance and why not broadcasting? or its generic cousin, communications?
    would it require more hours to complete that and therefore not worth it?
    i would think ( like i know…) that a broadcasting or communications degree would suit better for your writing and aspirations as a Tv dude.
    Why finance unless you plan on using it in a job down the line?

    i’m glad you went back to school! i’m glad you can.


  9. Dan Duran says:

    Would love for you to expand on how Coach Jimmy Williams taught you “how to throw a baseball.” One would think that a career 3B who has played the game from infancy to professional ranks would already have that basic concept down. There is definitely something to be said here. I don’t ever recall you airmailing a throw over Baggie’s head at first. Haven’t looked up your career fielding percentage but those numbers don’t reflect the quantity of throwing versus receiving errors. Please share more after you write your thoughts on yesterday’s brawl in Florida. 🙂

  10. Steve says:

    Good luck with the studies – no education is ever wasted. As an aside, would be interested in your take on this whole Nyjer Morgan business.

    The Marlins were probably justified in throwing at him for smashing their catcher the night before, but to then throw at him again for stealing when his team is way behind?

    Seems to me that’s a high horse the Marlins had no need to get on.

  11. teamlittleguy says:

    Good luck Morgan! What makes your story compelling in part is that many people can relate to it. More and more people are switching career tracks and looking for ways to merge their work with their interests and passions in their personal lives.

    Having made a major career shift/evolution about 10 years ago, I can honestly say I’m grateful that I took the risks required, with a lot of help and support along the way.

    Good luck in your own discovery process, and with finishing up the degree!

    (PS – you aren’t REALLY a Narc, are you?) 😉

  12. Jay Preuss says:

    Morgan, it makes total sense when you mention fundamentals and Jimy Williams in the same sentence. Jimy played at Fresno State under Pete Beiden. Pete (and Bob Bennett after him) were known as the masters of hammering down fundamentals. Fundamentals NEVER change. We had to constantly refine our pitching mechanics and that carried over to how position players threw as well. I imagine Jimy was able to break down your fielding mechanics and show you how to get in the proper position to release the ball in the most efficient and accurate manner. It’s amazing to me how many guys get by on talent alone and are unable to fix mechanical glitches, whether its pitching, hitting, or fielding. It’s good to know there’s a little bit of Bulldog in you!

  13. Derek Van Metre says:

    Morgan, as someone who returned to get his degree after having a career and a mortgage, I understand and aplaud you for going back. Your degree is something no one can take away. As a dad who’s 10 year old son, Morgan who thinks the sun rises and sets with you, I thank you for adding one more reason I encourage him to look to you as a role model. Keep it up and don’t slow down.

  14. floyd says:

    Good luck, keep us updated on your voyage…..

    At age 40, I was settled into my career as a police officer. I was a 14 year police veteran, a variety of circumstances brought a change, I went back to school, became a licensed vocational nurse. Continued going to school and at age 44 became a RN.

    Career change was hard!

    I was a good police officer, actually an All-Star in my own right, receiving many commendations and merits.

    But due to circumstances beyond my control, I took control, and have become a successful nurse.

    Good luck, but somehow I don’t think you need it, you’ve got a solid foundation in Christ!!!

  15. aod says:

    Morgan, what was Joe Girardi’s reason for running? Very interested in knowing for my own motivation.

  16. That’s awesome that you’re finishing up. As a teacher myself, I always like to see stories about people going back to finish up later in life. Do you mind if I tell this story to some of my students when they complain about hard work? If it’s a story about how tough my master’s classes are, they kind of brush it of, but a story about a former athlete, they might listen 🙂

    Best of luck!

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