Not-So-Freshman Feature: Tommy Morris
Photo courtesy of ScoringLive.
Among the nine newcomers to the 2017 Cornell baseball team is Tommy Morris, a junior who refers to himself as “a freshman trapped in a senior’s body” thanks to a transfer and a gap year prior to joining the Big Red.
Born in Kaneohe, Hawaii, Morris started playing the sport at age five due to encouragement from his parents. Soon after, he found himself on the 12-year-old all-star team at just nine years old. While attending Punahou High School, an accomplished program that won seven consecutive state championships from 2004-2010, Morris began to catch the eye of several Division I baseball coaches. However, he opted for Kenyon College, a small Division III liberal arts school in Gambier, Ohio.
Morris pitched for two years at Kenyon, but ultimately decided that the school and baseball program just weren’t for him.
“There was no real structure. There were no 6 AM lifts at Kenyon,” Morris said. “Nobody came to games or cared about athletics at a liberal arts school.”
Seeking a chance to play in a more competitive and serious baseball setting, Morris applied to Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He said that the ILR school has always been on his radar, and he plans to focus his academics on sports business, such as law or player representation.
Morris’s transfer to Ithaca was not as easy as he hoped since he faced some eligibility issues and was forced to appeal to the NCAA. These troubles ultimately cost him the first three weeks of the Big Red’s season, but after being granted the right to play, he greatly enjoyed his first start against Bucknell last month and has become a full-time member of the rotation.
During his gap year last season, Morris spent time working for Northwestern Mutual as a financial consultant, as well as volunteering for the Legal Aid Society. He even spent time as a pitching coach at his high school. In addition, Morris spent his summers playing for the Martinsville Mustangs of the Coastal Plains League, a wood-bat collegiate league.
Despite some initial problems, Morris’s transition to Cornell has gone rather well. He lives in the baseball house with the other seniors on the team and noted that that they gave him the lay of the land rather quickly.
“It was not hard to acclimate academically either,” he stated. Morris feels as if the team is so close that he doesn’t see himself as a freshman or a senior, but just as any other player.
Morris does acknowledge several differences between the Cornell and Keyon programs. Mainly, he knows that his Big Red teammates hold him accountable for his actions, but also help pick him up if he falls.
“Under Coach Pepicelli, everyone takes everything very seriously,” Morris described. “There is no free ride problem on Cornell.”
He did point out, however, that he wasn’t entirely aware of the culture upon arriving. After showing up with a giant beard, he was alerted immediately that the coaching staff was not a fan and quickly shaved it.
During the offseason, Morris followed a very structured plan for pitchers. Coach Pepicelli, the former pitching coach at Clemson University, understands the importance of strength and conditioning, especially for pitchers. He was kept busy by his two trainers and pitching coach, as Morris tried to improve his command and location sequence.
“We did a lot of weighted ball stuff to build up what coach calls the ‘engines in our arms.’ We also did lifting and intense velo work,” he explained.
From a pitcher’s perspective, Morris is influenced by Oakland Athletics All-Star starter Sonny Gray. Gray, standing at only 5’10” is one of the smallest pitchers in Major League Baseball today.
“I love how he dominates the space around the mound,” Morris said.
He is also inspired by Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer’s mentality and leadership. Morris grew up playing both third base and pitcher, but after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in his sophomore summer of high school, he made the full-time transition to the mound.
Like all Cornell newcomers, Morris did have his key embarrassing moment. While studying in Mann Library and looking to meet up with a classmate, he accidentally opened the alarmed door in the silent section of the library. He was the obvious culprit, as he was caught in the doorway as the alarm sounded.
The Cornell baseball team has enjoyed a relatively strong season, and Tommy truly believes that this is just the beginning for the program. He also wants to commit to improving each week and avoiding mediocracy. Personally, Morris is focused on staying healthy, pitching in big spots, and coming through when it counts.