Morris Making His Own Path

KINGSPORT, TN - The Mets' pursuit and eventual selection of Akeel Morris in the 10th round of the 2010 Draft is an atypical story. But in a little more than a year, the hard-throwing teenager has opened eyes throughout the system with his repertoire and his quick growth. Inside Pitch caught up with Morris and the K-Mets coaches to find out more about his story.

Appalachian League baseball games typically don't receive media attention on a local scale – much less an international one.

That's not the case this summer. Down in the U.S. Virgin Islands, they're tracking the happenings of the Kingsport Mets and one particular pitcher on the roster: Akeel Morris. Morris, a native of the Virgin Islands, is currently going through his second season in the Mets organization.

"People still write in the newspaper how I'm doing here and stuff. That's pretty amazing to me," Morris said.

The Virgin Islands might be quite the vacation spot, but it's hardly a hotbed for outstanding baseball talent. Only four players from the country were taken in last year's amateur draft, and just three prospects – all pitchers – were selected this year. Only 11 natives of the islands have ever played Major League baseball.

Morris aims to be the 12th, and he certainly has the potential. Last season, Morris averaged better than one strikeout per inning while pitching for the Gulf Coast League Mets, fanning 28 in 24 1/3 innings. Opposing lineups hit just .148 against him, and of the 11 runs Morris allowed, only six were earned.

Factor in a fastball that Morris consistently throws in the low-90s, and a wiry 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame that can easily carry more muscle and strength, and the future remains bright for the 18-year-old islander.

"Some people have different perspectives on the continuum of potential. It's used a lot sometimes with young guys," said Kingsport manager Frank Fultz. "Other guys say potential and prospects don't come until you at least have a couple of years under your belt. But this guy exemplifies the whole notion of young potential. He's got a great body. He's young. He's very intelligent, has the ability to adjust and adapt, make changes and you know as well that this game is all about adjustments."

"This kid has a chance to be something special one day, and we have high expectations for him," Fultz added.

Facing lofty hopes is nothing new for Morris, the Mets' 10th round pick in the 2010 draft and the only high school player chosen in the first 10 rounds by the organization that year. During his senior year at Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Morris made a trip to the Dominican Republic to work out for the Mets' scouts and front office staff.

That was quite the journey, considering that Morris' parents personally funded the trip. His father is a crane operator and his mother is an insurance agent.

"That was my first time practicing in front of scouts," Morris noted.

Morris, who 1-2 with a 4.55 ERA and 40 strikeouts and a .183 opponents' average in six starts this season, has experienced plenty of other firsts since getting drafted. Playing in the Gulf Coast League is his first extended time away from home, and it's also his first everyday baseball schedule.

"Back home, it was kind of play when you want. Sometimes two or three times a week," Morris said. "Here, the commitment you have to make, that's the big difference."

Morris throws his changeup with a new four-seam grip that last year's GCL pitching coach Hector Berrios taught him. Though that stout fastball remains Morris' best asset, his off-speed arsenal continues to progress. Kingsport pitching coach Jonathan Hurt noted that, during Extended Spring Training, there were multiple games where Morris' curveball and changeup both showed plus movement.

"We really worked with his changeup, and his curveball was that third pitch that we really wanted him to try to get. Not master it, but at least show it in a game, and actually turned into a pretty good pitching for him," Hurst said. "He has three pretty good pitches that he can throw for strikes right now. The thing that we have to really keep on top of him is, just repeating delivery when he throws those pitches. When he does that, he really has electric stuff."

"You like the path through which his fastball comes out of his hand," Fultz added. "I would say it complements his curveball because he's able to keep that same path and still have a nice 12/6 rotation on the ball."

Morris agreed that repeating his delivery remains a key goal every time he takes the mound this summer – whether it be a side session or during a game. He's also continuing to develop his fastball command as he attempts to mold himself in the manner of his two favorite pitchers to watch, Josh Beckett and Tim Lincecum.

"I just like how they attack the zone. I'd like to get like that," Morris said.

Morris has drawn comparisons to former Mets ace Dwight Gooden. Sandy Alomar Sr., the GCL manager last season, went on record to make that very link between the two hurlers.

It's still way too early to anoint Morris as that type of ace, however. Hurst emphasizes that its' important that Morris not become to overwhelmed as he ascends the organizational ladder. Hurst actually said that, for Morris, competing in the Appalachian League would be the equivalent of Double-A baseball for a mainland prospect, given Morris' comparative lack of experience against upper-echelon talent.

"Being from the Virgin Islands, he hasn't had a lot of experience as far as what he's into now," Hurst said. "We've basically just been taking him a little bit at a time, kind of getting him the fundamentals and really letting him get on the mound and pitch and get a feel for pitching right now."

Improving as a fielder is also important for Morris in his second season as a pro.

Meanwhile, Morris continues to follow in the footsteps of his mother, Corlette, who played softball in her younger days. The love affair with baseball does not look to end anytime soon, as Morris pointed out.

"I just kind of fell in love with the sport."


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nAppalachian League baseball games typically don't receive media attention on a local scale – much less an international one.\r\n

\r\nThat's not the case this summer. Down in the U.S. Virgin Islands, they're tracking the happenings of the Kingsport Mets and one particular pitcher on the roster: Akeel Morris. Morris, a native of the Virgin Islands, is currently going through his second season in the Mets organization.\r\n

\r\n\"People still write in the newspaper how I'm doing here and stuff. That's pretty amazing to me,\" Morris said.\r\n

\r\nThe Virgin Islands might be quite the vacation spot, but it's hardly a hotbed for outstanding baseball talent. Only four players from the country were taken in last year's amateur draft, and just three prospects – all pitchers – were selected this year. Only 11 natives of the islands have ever played Major League baseball.\r\n

\r\nMorris aims to be the 12th, and he certainly has the potential. Last season, Morris averaged better than one strikeout per inning while pitching for the Gulf Coast League Mets, fanning 28 in 24 1/3 innings. Opposing lineups hit just .148 against him, and of the 11 runs Morris allowed, only six were earned.\r\n

\r\nFactor in a fastball that Morris consistently throws in the low-90s, and a wiry 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame that can easily carry more muscle and strength, and the future remains bright for the 18-year-old islander.\r\n

\r\n\"Some people have different perspectives on the continuum of potential. It's used a lot sometimes with young guys,\" said Kingsport manager Frank Fultz. \"Other guys say potential and prospects don't come until you at least have a couple of years under your belt. But this guy exemplifies the whole notion of young potential. He's got a great body. He's young. He's very intelligent, has the ability to adjust and adapt, make changes and you know as well that this game is all about adjustments.\"\r\n

\r\n\"This kid has a chance to be something special one day, and we have high expectations for him,\" Fultz added.\r\n

\r\nFacing lofty hopes is nothing new for Morris, the Mets' 10th round pick in the 2010 draft and the only high school player chosen in the first 10 rounds by the organization that year. During his senior year at Charlotte Amalie High School in St. Thomas, Morris made a trip to the Dominican Republic to work out for the Mets' scouts and front office staff.\r\n

\r\nThat was quite the journey, considering that Morris' parents personally funded the trip. His father is a crane operator and his mother is an insurance agent.\r\n

\r\n\"That was my first time practicing in front of scouts,\" Morris noted.\r\n

\r\nMorris, who 1-2 with a 4.55 ERA and 40 strikeouts and a .183 opponents' average in six starts this season, has experienced plenty of other firsts since getting drafted. Playing in the Gulf Coast League is his first extended time away from home, and it's also his first everyday baseball schedule.\r\n

\r\n\"Back home, it was kind of play when you want. Sometimes two or three times a week,\" Morris said. \"Here, the commitment you have to make, that's the big difference.\"\r\n

\r\nMorris throws his changeup with a new four-seam grip that last year's GCL pitching coach Hector Berrios taught him. Though that stout fastball remains Morris' best asset, his off-speed arsenal continues to progress. Kingsport pitching coach Jonathan Hurt noted that, during Extended Spring Training, there were multiple games where Morris' curveball and changeup both showed plus movement.\r\n

\r\n\"We really worked with his changeup, and his curveball was that third pitch that we really wanted him to try to get. Not master it, but at least show it in a game, and actually turned into a pretty good pitching for him,\" Hurst said. \"He has three pretty good pitches that he can throw for strikes right now. The thing that we have to really keep on top of him is, just repeating delivery when he throws those pitches. When he does that, he really has electric stuff.\"\r\n

\r\n\"You like the path through which his fastball comes out of his hand,\" Fultz added. \"I would say it complements his curveball because he's able to keep that same path and still have a nice 12/6 rotation on the ball.\"\r\n

\r\nMorris agreed that repeating his delivery remains a key goal every time he takes the mound this summer – whether it be a side session or during a game. He's also continuing to develop his fastball command as he attempts to mold himself in the manner of his two favorite pitchers to watch, Josh Beckett and Tim Lincecum.\r\n

\r\n\"I just like how they attack the zone. I'd like to get like that,\" Morris said.\r\n

\r\nMorris has drawn comparisons to former Mets ace Dwight Gooden. Sandy Alomar Sr., the GCL manager last season, went on record to make that very link between the two hurlers. \r\n

\r\nIt's still way too early to anoint Morris as that type of ace, however. Hurst emphasizes that its' important that Morris not become to overwhelmed as he ascends the organizational ladder. Hurst actually said that, for Morris, competing in the Appalachian League would be the equivalent of Double-A baseball for a mainland prospect, given Morris' comparative lack of experience against upper-echelon talent. \r\n

\r\n\"Being from the Virgin Islands, he hasn't had a lot of experience as far as what he's into now,\" Hurst said. \"We've basically just been taking him a little bit at a time, kind of getting him the fundamentals and really letting him get on the mound and pitch and get a feel for pitching right now.\"\r\n

\r\nImproving as a fielder is also important for Morris in his second season as a pro.\r\n

\r\nMeanwhile, Morris continues to follow in the footsteps of his mother, Corlette, who played softball in her younger days. The love affair with baseball does not look to end anytime soon, as Morris pointed out.\r\n

\r\n\"I just kind of fell in love with the sport.\"\r\n

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