He is nationally recognized, classy and talented. He is a part-time math whiz, shortstop and architect. He is a full-time father to many, but a devoted dad to one.
He is Jim Morris, the half “money ball,” half “old school,” head coach for the No. 8 University of Miami baseball team.
Morris became a coach at the young age of 24. He never realized how lucky he was until he looked back at all his accomplishments: playing professional baseball for the Boston Red Sox’s minor league team, travelling around the world representing the USA team as head coach twice, receiving a master’s degree in education, completing all the requirements for his Ph.D. except his dissertation, numerous “Coach of the Year” honors, and coaching several top-of-the-line college baseball teams, including UM.
For 35 years, he has dedicated his life to coaching. Baseball is all he’s ever known. But that all changed three months ago when his wife gave birth to his first child, William Morris IV. Morris didn’t see this coming at age 62.
“Having my first kid, at my age, it’s amazing to me,” he said. “He’s the first boy in the family. All my brothers have daughters. My interests have changed a lot. Before, I would love looking at houses, drawing and riding my bike, where as today I’m spending time with my son.”
In Morris’ newly renovated office, he gets up from one of his two camel-leather love seats and pulls out a stash of more than 10 pictures from his desk. In every picture, Will is sporting a new look, but one picture stands out in particular. It’s a close-up of baby Morris wearing a white onesie with the U. He is flashing a toothless smile with one dimple, and as his father pointed out, “He’s got my hairline, which is scary.”
“I’m sure people say, ‘You talk about your kid being 13 weeks old,’” he said. “‘You’re counting weeks?’ Yeah, I’m counting weeks now. I’m changing dirty diapers.”
Leading his team
Although Morris has found a new love, baseball is still on his daily agenda. After all, he has been the UM coach for 19 years and has a team of 33 players that respect and admire him, as he does them. He is with them seven days a week and that doesn’t include travel time.
Out on the field, Morris drills them. Everyday is game day for the team. Practice is never just pitching and batting because “you’ve got to practice the way you play.”
E.J. Encinosa, the team’s closer, is in his third year and admires Morris’ coaching.
“Coach is the ultimate perfectionist when it comes to baseball,” he said. “He expects things to be done the right way and does a great job motivating us.”
Once players are doing things the right way and are prepared for any situation come game day, he has two simple rules for them to follow: Play hard and have fun. He is not a fan of hardcore, ranting pregame speeches. He’d rather use the relaxed and calm approach.
“I admire what our players do,” Morris. “The level of competition these players play at is very tough because we are expected to be the top team in the country. Our guys are also competing at a level academically at one of the top institutions and are pretty good at staying out of trouble. They know what’s right and wrong.”
Junior Alex San Juan, who is a transfer student, is the Canes’ catcher. Although a late signee, has grown to value Morris’ knowledge and expertise.
“Coach Morris knows what he’s doing and has had a lot of success,” San Juan said. “He knows how to talk to his players and maintains a steady balance. He’ll crack a joke here and there, but he means business. He wants us to do our best and when we’re not doing that, he’ll let us know. He’s definitely honest when we’re not doing what we have to do, but when we are doing things right, he lets us play.”
Keeping in touch
Many former players that Morris has coached have ended up signing contracts with the major leagues. Morris never forgets about his players, and he is happy when they graduate or leave to pursue their dreams.
“You know, they’re like my kids,” Morris said. “They move on to bigger and better things and I don’t hear from some of them very often. But, if you go through my day timer, I write down all my players’ birthdays and I call them no matter where they are at. It’s my way of keeping in touch.”
In addition to his other roles, Morris is also an architect on the side. Not for a corporation, but for himself. Houses, cars and watches are among his collections. Some would argue a fourth collection – bobble head dolls – when they first visit his office and see about 10 of them bobbling up and down while staring at the panoramic picturesque view his office overlooks of Alex Rodriguez Park.
“In 35 years, I’ve owned 35 houses,” Morris said. “I enjoy buying and selling houses. I own two places right now, I had three but I just sold one. I like looking at places.”
And what does Coach Morris drive? Porsche’s, from the Collection.
“I’ve always had sports cars, but right now I’m on my fourth Porsche,” he said. “I have a 911 Carrera and it has 20,000 miles on it, which is twice as much as any other car I’ve driven. It’s a convertible, you put the top down and it’s fun to drive. I have to figure out how to put a baby seat in.”
The only thing Morris would rather be doing, other than coaching baseball, is playing for the major leagues. His trading deals and expensive watch taste are just hobbies he enjoys.
“If someone guarantees me shortstop in the major leagues, I’m out of here,” he said laughing. “I think I’m passed my day in playing the big leagues now, but I love the competition of games. I do not enjoy 10-0 games. I enjoy 2-1 games or 1-0 and we win.”
Will little Morris be a Cane? Absolutely. Will he be a baseball player? It doesn’t matter to Morris.
“I don’t care which sport he plays,” he said. “If it’s soccer, then I guess I’ll learn to like soccer. I just want him to be healthy and smart. Hopefully he got those genes from his mom.”
Coach Morris wants the best for all his kids – his son and his players.
“I tell our players that when they go to bed at night, brush their teeth, and are looking in the mirror they need to know that they did their best that day in everything they did,” Morris said. “If they do then they’ll be successful. I would hope my son could do that.”