Thursday, October 22, 2009
Playing For The Love Of The Game
RT Staff Note: Not everyone is talented or lucky enough to play college baseball. Yet, for many, the desire to play never ends. At Sacramento State and at many colleges around the country, club baseball is growing in popularity. We think this is great...because the more people that continue their passion to play baseball, the better it is for the game that we love.
By Dustin Nosler
Dominic and Donte Morris tried out for the Sacramento State baseball team as freshmen. They did not make the team.
However, that rejection was the first step to something potentially groundbreaking: an alternative to Division I college baseball - a competitive league run by two Sac State business majors.
Dominic and Donte Morris, senior marketing and general management majors respectively, created the Morris League, a baseball league composed mostly of Sac State students, but also anyone in the local community who wants to partake in the national pastime.
The number of teams in the league has doubled in size every year since its inception: From two teams in 2007, to four in 2008, to eight in 2009 - from 23 players to 130 players. The eight teams are divided into two divisions: East and West, including a team from UC Davis' baseball club.
This type of growth gives the Morris brothers hope for their league - perhaps expansion to the Bay Area.
"Our next step is, actually, next spring, is to move maybe like a six-team league down to the Bay Area," Donte Morris said. "Eventually, we want to grow all up and down California and have a Morris base in every major city."
The league is designed to provide a place for those who are not able to play college ball, including junior college players, fifth-year seniors and redshirt players.
"The majority of our players are players that go to Sac State played in high school and don't really have a spot to play anywhere else; those guys who still have the 'baseball feeling,'" Donte Morris said. "In certain cases, we do have fifth-year (players) out of Sac State or Sac City who also want to continue to play ball."
The Morris brothers decided to create the league after playing catch outside their residence hall.
"One day we saw a lot of people playing catch and we were like, 'Why are we just playing catch when we could actually play a game?'" Dominic Morris said. "So we decided then to start up a two-team league and from there, we thought of it even further and thought of more ideas for this baseball league."
The league gets help from its fans, including one fan who Donte Morris specifically mentioned - Angelina Boykin.
Boykin said she brings snacks, drinks and does whatever she can to help out the Morris brothers.
She also said she comes to the games not only because her husband Oliver plays for the Dragons, but because the Morris brothers are dedicated to putting together a quality product with quality people.
"We try to do what we can to help them," Boykin said. "They're doing such a great job and it's a great league to be around. They give a lot of these players a good opportunity to get out there if they're trying to play just to play."
Boykin said she could tell there was something different about this league from the first time she attended a game.
"When my husband and I came out here, we saw them and said, 'We're going to give them a try,'" she said. "We're kind of picky, so we came out here, saw them and said 'We're going to stick with them.'"
Dominic Morris said his favorite thing about playing in the league is the fan turnout.
"Seeing a lot of people and their families coming out and just seeing a mass number of people coming out just to have a picture day - that type of thing - just seeing us grow brings me excitement," Dominic Morris said.
Adam Wilson, a 21-year-old Sac State mass communication major, has played in the league for a couple years.
"It's cool to have a team that you can create on your own," Wilson said. "Also, it's awesome to meet other guys as well."
A first-time player, J.P. LaCroix, said he enjoys playing night games, as well as just playing the game.
"I look for any opportunity to get out and play ball," LaCroix said. "I've played ball all my life, up until college. It's really convenient being right behind Sac State."
LaCroix is a player-coach for the Dirtbags and a double major in communication studies and physical education at Sac State.
The league has giveaways and raffles where the fans can win Morris League memorabilia - hats, T-shirts and wristbands included. The Morris brothers also hope to set a good example for everyone.
"We try to be as interactive as we can with our fans," Donte Morris said. "Most of our fans are parents, wives, girlfriends - there's a lot of kids at our games, so we always want to keep it clean, in terms of conduct."
The Morris brothers said another driving force behind the league is that they want the league to pay homage to the Negro Leagues.
"Me and Donte were fascinated with the Negro Leagues," Dominic Morris said. "We felt like if we were in a position where we had anything to do to contribute to the Negro Leagues, we would do it. We can honor them by playing in the game, representing their uniforms (and) representing the heritage that they once had."
In February, the league honored former Negro League player Elmer Carter, who was a catcher and outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1930s.
Donte Morris also said the Negro League tribute is also to drum up interest among African American players.
"There's been a lot of talk about the lack of African Americans playing baseball," Donte Morris said. "We're trying (show) a mirror image to honor the Negro Leagues of the past while also showing that African Americans still play baseball today."
Dominic Morris said in the end, the league's character is vital to its continued success.
"We really want to strive on our reputation of a quality, family atmosphere of baseball," Dominic Morris said. "It's important … to conduct ourselves in a good manner and to keep our reputation."
Morris League games are played at 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at McAullife Baseball Field located behind Sac State.
Dustin Nosler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org