Morrison's background helps him tear up FSL
Jupiter first baseman Logan Morrison shows discipline at the plate for a reason. He grew up under the tutelage of his father Tom, a veteran military officer who steered his son to baseball at an early age.
"My dad read every book he could about baseball—Charlie Lau's especially," Logan Morrison said of the famed major league hitting coach turned author. "Because of my dad, I was probably the only 12-year-old hitting 100 balls a day."
The strategy worked as Morrison, 20, has quickly made himself one of the top prospects in the Marlins organization and one of the Florida State League's best hitters. He led the circuit with a .331 average and 27 doubles, and ranked in the top 10 in home runs (10) and RBIs (55) and in the top five in on-base percentage (.394) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.896).
"He has a flat swing and can hit the ball out to all fields—pole to pole," Jupiter manager Brandon Hyde said. "He is an excellent two-strike hitter because his bat stays through the zone a long time."
Not The Norm
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Morrison is not a typical lefthanded hitter.
"You can't use a shift on him because he uses the whole field," Hyde said. "If he gets a tough pitch down and away, he can stroke it to left field. And his power comes on pitchers' mistakes."
Morrison, on the other hand, doesn't make many mistakes. His parents saw to it that their only child did the right thing.
"I was hard on him," admits Tom Morrison, a chief petty officer in the Coast Guard who played a year of freshman football at Kansas as a 6-foot-4, 260-pound defensive end. "When he was about 10 years old, he got hit in the ribs by a pitch. My wife wanted to run out there, but I said no. If he really needs help, we'll go out there.
"Never let the enemy know you are weak. That's what I always taught him. When you get hit by pitch, just say 'thanks for the base.' That's the best way to get back at them. That intimidates them—if you show no pain."
That tough upbringing has always been present in Logan Morrison's life. Morrison spent much of his childhood on the move as part of a millitary family. His father built a pitcher's mound in the backyard of their home in North Carolina.
Swing It Like Seitzer
For Tom Morrison, the transition to baseball was natural. He said he "lost his love" for football after his freshman season.
"After a while, hitting people and hurting people didn't seem to be that important anymore," he said. "I was always a baseball fan. And when Logan was young, I started learning more about the game. I watched tapes of (former Dodgers first baseman) Steve Garvey's swing over and over."
When the family moved back to their native Kansas City for Logan's pre-teen years, Tom became a fan of the Royals' Kevin Seitzer, who never hit more than 15 homers in a season but was able to post a career average of .295 in a 12-year big league career.
"I saw him and said, that's it, that's the swing," Tom Morrison said. "I then invested a lot of money to send Logan to Seitzer's baseball academy."
Logan Morrison said the lessons paid off.
"He taught me how to hit the other way and how to be patient," Morrison said. "He just taught me how to wait for my pitch."
By the time he moved to Slidell, La., for his junior and senior years at Northshore High, Logan Morrison was a big-time college prospect. National power Louisiana State offered a scholarship, as did Oklahoma.
"My wife really wanted him to go to Oklahoma," Tom Morrison said. "We really liked the coach there. But I said, let's see what Logan wants.
"And Logan said, 'I want my chance.'"
That meant pro ball. The Marlins selected him in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft, and Morrison spent the next year at Maple Woods Community College in Missouri (alma mater of Albert Pujols) before signing.
His pro debut in 2006 was not an indication of how good he would get. He hit just .270/.343/.348 in 89 at-bats in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and .203/.295/.284 in 74 at-bats for short-season Jamestown.
But Morrison broke through last season in low Class A Greensboro, hitting .267/.343/.500 and earning a spot in the South Atlantic League all-star game.
Morrison, who said he practices his swing in front of a mirror without a bat, figured there would be a big adjustment this year in the pitcher-friendly FSL, where the parks are larger.
"The ball does not carry well in our home park," Morrison said. "And the pitching in this league is tougher. They throw harder and can locate their offspeed stuff better. The fielders get to more balls. You really have to hit the ball on a line here to get hits."
Fortunately, the guy they call "Hulk Logan" or "LoMo" has been doing just that. He estimates that most of his home runs are line drives anyway.
"Every once in a while, I will get under a pitch," said Morrison, who was also named an FSL all-star this season. "But I'm not that type of hitter."
Not when he grew up admiring the Royals' George Brett (career .305 hitter). Not when he learned to hit from Seitzer. And not when his dad recited hitting tips from Lau and Garvey.
And Hyde, Morrison's manager, said the best is yet to come for his prodigy, who could be in the majors by 2010 or 2011 if he stays on track.
"He is a legit major league prospect," Hyde said. "He has an excellent arm (Morrison has been clocked at 93 mph on the mound) and has the running tools to play a corner-outfield spot if needed.
"He is put together like a linebacker. He works hard on his defense every day. But he is a hitter first."
Walter Villa is a freelance writer based in Miami.