A 3-for-42 spell dropped his average from .290 to .246 and Morton ended the year with a .239 average. The same swing that propelled him to a .308 average in July, dogged him to a .167 mark in August.
Consistency and shortening his stroke are what will open the door to success for Colt Morton.
"Absolutely," he quickly agrees. "That is the key to my success, staying short and compact with my swing because if I get my barrel of my bat to the baseball that is when I am going to do my damage. If I get too long I am going to have some problems. I have long arms and in college I could get away with a little bit of a longer swing because of the aluminum bats.
"I was still able to have some success and when I really started to see the problems was when I was up at Fort Wayne. I could really start noticing the difference of, ‘Wow, I really feel like I am on the pitch. I am seeing it; I am just not getting there.'"
Perhaps it is the comforts of home that give the religious man his strength. He is a man of honor and places religion and family at the top of the hierarchy. Eugene is certainly a quirky town for the Florida native but it had its benefits as the support for the team was unbelievable given their record.
And Morton responded to the home cooking, hitting .281 with 14 of his 17 homers in Eugene.
It wasn't all utopia for Morton. After all, there was something profound he was missing in his life.
"I have to confess, the sweet tea in North Carolina was unbelievable," Morton said with a smile. "And you can't get it anywhere else. You can order sweet tea and put 18 packets of sugar in there but it is not going to work. The sweet tea – you miss that."
No Bojangles on the corner meant the focus remained on baseball. That is fine with the former Wolf Pack catcher. He wants to make this his living and remains steadfast in his work ethic.
Now that the season is over, Morton remains close to Rob Deer, the roving hitting instructor for the Padres.
It is Deer, among others, which Morton attributes his refined game to. Deer is the one who keeps him grounded when he goes off track.
"Rob Deer is a good hitting coach," said Morton. "I love working with him. He builds confidence in his hitters. I really attribute a lot of my improvements to Rob Deer, Roy Howell; we call him "Target" Roy Howell, and Ben Oglivie. Those three guys, as well as the stuff I was learning with (Ryan) Klesko, they have really been able to help me a lot in a lot of aspects, each in their own way.
"Rob Deer has helped me a lot with preparation before the game, mental approach at the plate, what I am trying to do and just not giving in."
Morton got in one game late in the year with Double-A Mobile and responded with his trademark, a homer in three at bats. It signified a change for Morton, who had never played above Low-A Fort Wayne.
There is a feeling that Morton will skip Fort Wayne altogether to begin the year, leaving the hex behind for the confines of the California League, friendly to hitter's.
It will be a challenge, certainly, but it also offers him some confidence from the Padres and a change of scenery. That may be the one thing Morton needs at this stage of his development and his success may hinge more on the mental side than the physical attributes of the 6-foot-6 behemoth.
Rest assured, Morton will be laying on the line daily. It is the only way he knows how to play.
Denis Savage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Padres Prospect Interview: Colt Morton
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