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Thursday, March 28, 2002
Updated: April 2, 7:03 PM ET
Jim Morris

Page 2 staff

Jim Morris played just 21 big-league games, all for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1999 and 2000. But mere numbers don't begin to tell his magical story. His career was a dream come true ... because he didn't make it to the majors until he was 35, long after he had given up hope.

Jim Morris
Jim Morris was 0-0 with a 4.80 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 21 major-league games.
Page 2 peppered Morris with 10 Burning Questions about what it's like to be played by Dennis Quaid in the new Disney movie, "The Rookie," which opened in theaters Friday, what it was like to live Everyman's fantasy, and what dreams he still has for the future. (Disney is the parent company of ESPN and ESPN.com.)

All we can say is, in our mind, he's still a major-leaguer.

1. Page 2: As a former major-league pitcher, how do you rate Dennis Quaid's performance on the mound? How is his pitching motion different from yours?

Jim Morris: The motion is a little different. I was a little bit more smooth. But he worked extremely hard, and developed a lot of my mannerisms that I didn't know I had.

For example?

Morris: Tugging on my sleeve or twirling the ball in the palm of my hand when I'm looking in for a sign. Or kicking dirt in front of the mound. I didn't realize I did it that much.

2. You're retired now, but do you ever dream about another comeback?

Morris: The circumstances would have to be right. I realized a dream I'd had since I was 3. But I wanted to spend more time with my kids, and help them pursue their dreams.

They are young. What kind of dreams do they have?

Morris: Have you seen the movie? Well, there's this one scene that depicts me and my father and how we got along. I want my kids to grow up and enjoy their childhood and be carefree. I never really got a chance to be a kid.

3. What was the most memorable moment from your stint with the D-Rays?

Morris: The day I got called up. From the time I was 3, I wanted to be a major-league player. To accomplish that at 35, get my name on my jersey, be in the clubhouse with major-league players, see my family for the first time in three months, be in my home state and pitch the day I got called up, was incredible. I took it all in.

What moment would you like to forget?

Morris: I don't want to forget anything. Sure, I gave up a couple of home runs, but that's all part of the experience. It was fun competing against the guys who were the best of the best.

4. Do you consider yourself lucky for the shot you got at the end of your career or unlucky for all the misfortune at the beginning?

Morris: I consider myself very lucky. God has a funny way of bringing some things around and knocking you in the head with the ultimate destination. Something I should have achieved quite easily took me a long time to get around to. It came in His time, not mine.

Would you have even considered trying out for the big leagues if you hadn't made that deal with your high school team?

Morris: No. I never even thought about it.

Did you thank your team?

Morris: I thanked them after I apologized to them. I didn't realize how hard I was throwing at them in batting practice.

Dennis Quaid
Morris can't envision anyone but Dennis Quaid portraying "The Rookie."
5. If you could have picked an actor other than Dennis to play your story, who would it have been?

Morris: That's a tough one now. I've been with him from Day 1, so I can't see anyone else doing it.

What's your favorite Dennis Quaid movie?

Morris: This one.

OK, give us another.

Morris: Well, because I've seen it 400 times, it would have to be one of my kids' movies -- "The Parent Trap." My daughter has played it to death.

What's the best baseball movie you've ever seen -- other than "The Rookie"?

Morris: "Field of Dreams." I love it. The whole dreams deal. Leaving yourself open for something bigger than what you think is possible.

6. What's harder to control, a class of high schoolers or a locker room of baseball players? How do you compare the maturity level of the two?

Morris: The maturity level is about the same. But it's totally different. My high school kids were easy to control in the classroom. But as a rookie, I wasn't going to try to control anything.

Did the other Devil Rays treat you like a rookie -- you know, make you carry their bags and sing your school song?

Morris: I got treated like a rookie. I had to wear a dress from Anaheim to New York City on a plane. I had to get off at the Grand Hyatt with a dress on in rush hour traffic. They had me wearing a long skirt and wig. I was a school teacher and the other rookies were students. But the other guys had to wear miniskirts.

7. How much creative license does the movie take with your story? The scene where the lights in the radar gun are burned out -- did that really happen?

Morris: I don't know if it was burned out. Doug Gassaway, the original scout that looked at me, shook the gun, and it wasn't even registering it. They had two or three guns out. Then they were shaking the gun the first four or five pitches. They couldn't believe the velocity. The movie is pretty accurate. I'm very happy with it. The thing we wanted, the message we wanted to convey was that it's not a baseball movie. It's a family-oriented movie. It entails relationships with high school kids and adults, adults and adults, adults with children. Baseball just happened to be the dream that I pursued.

8. What's the one dream now that you haven't pursued that you'd like to?

Morris: The only thing I never tried to pursue is my football career. When I was 28, I played at Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas. I was an All-American and led the country in punting. I lettered two years. I led the conference one year, and led the country the next. Averaged 44.5 yards.

9. Which superpower would you most like to have -- the ability to fly, the strength of 100 men or the ability to turn invisible?

Morris: I'd like to fly. Then I wouldn't have to wait in airport security lines.

10. What four people would you most like to invite to dinner and why?

Morris: Michael Jordan for the athletic part. President Bush for the political part. A religious figure of some type. I'd want to sit down and figure out how they get things done.

President Bush has seen some things other presidents have not had to look at. It's not like he had a break. Stuff just kind of happened. These are changing times.

As for Michael Jordan, he's just an incredible guy who can do whatever he wants. He just keeps coming back.