Blood, Sweat, and Tears for Michael Morse

Ever sit in front of a T.V. and marvel at the athletic ability of a young ballplayer? We all have at some point, but have you ever wondered about what it took for him to achieve his status in his profession? Check out what Michael Morse is doing to make sure he shows up on your T.V. set every night during future summer months.

How early do you show up for work?

On an unusually cool August day deep in the heart of South Texas - which means it wasn't over 93 degrees – San Antonio Missions SS Michael Morse rocked back on his heels, popped his right hand to his glove and proceeded to field groundball after groundball. Morse's work on the infield moved the pitchers to left field to stretch, warm-up and throw off the bullpen bump.

Every few grounders, Morse listened to instructions yelled by a group of coaches from the Mariners organization.

"The three things (Seattle's coordinator of instruction Mike Goff) wants me to accomplish by the end of the season is my backhand, the double play ball and setting my feet to get ready for the ball," said Morse.

The right-handed 22-year-old also revealed a strange request for anybody planning to get him a Christmas gift.

"He just told me that a good investment for me would be a ping-pong table and to play left-handed," said Morse. "All you're doing when you play left-handed is working on angles and that's good for your glove."

Starting ping-pong wouldn't be a stretch for Morse. His mother was a track Olympian for their native Jamaica, his older brother is currently awaiting a call from an NFL team in need of a punter, and Michael has played nearly every sport that requires a ball growing up.

"She made me and my brother play tennis, then basketball, football and baseball," said Morse. "Anytime there was something open, we had to play. Over the years, we started eliminating them down."

As time went on, Morse continued to play baseball, although primarily as an outfielder, until the desire to play shortstop changed his path.

"I always wanted to play shortstop, but everybody told me I couldn't play short so I didn't even really try out," said the 6-foot-4 Morse. "Growing up, the shortstop was always that good player. He was the guy that could hit well and be a good infielder. You always heard about the shortstop and I wanted to be that guy.

"In high school, A-Rod and all these big-name guys were starting to come out and they were all shortstops. I just worked at it and got to a point where I liked it a lot and it just made me work harder and harder. My mother and step-father are crazy; they had me doing stuff everyday so that I succeed."

When Morse joined the Missions in early July, Missions hitting coach Gary Thurman reserved comment on the young man from Plantation, Florida. Now, Thurman praises Morse as a very cerebral player.

"He knows what the pitcher is going to do to get him out and he makes the proper adjustments," said Thurman. "He comes in here and knows how they got him out after every at-bat. He comes in the dugout and keeps a log of how they did it."

A log? Surely this must be an out-of-the-ordinary technique, but alas, it's a fairly integral part of Morse's preparation.

"I started doing that at the end of last year in the playoffs," said Morse. "I keep a book on every pitcher I've ever faced, so if I see them in the big leagues, I know what they'll throw me."

InsideThePark.com, in our never-ending quest to bring our readers the inside information, asked to see the book. Morse talked about why it wasn't available.

"I had one going this year, but we weren't doing too well (in Round Rock earlier this month); some stuff got thrown around in the dugout and one of the things happened to be my binder and papers went everywhere," he said.

"At the time, I don't think we had a hit going, so I kind of just threw it in the garbage and said I can do this on my own and I have everything in his head. I know how he's going to pitch to me and it's to the point now where I don't need to keep a binder. It's not too difficult. I'm a tall guy with long arms and they're going to try to bust me in because I've got long arms and then go soft away.

A question that arises constantly is Morse's possible transition to either third base or a return to the outfield, but in the organization that produced quite possibly the best player in professional baseball in New York Yankees SS Alex Rodriguez, the work ethic necessary to replicate A-Rod's success is there.

"Goffy's been teaching me how to be a shortstop," said Morse. "I know I can make the plays, but he's helping me to become a real true infielder. He's showing me how to do it the right way."

Four hours before game time and Michael Morse is taking extra infield.

How early do you show up for work?

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