Jim ‘The Rookie’ Morris in Rockford May 10

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Jim “The Rookie” Morris will be the featured speaker tomorrow night (Thursday, May 10) at the Rockford Rescue Mission’s Expressions of Hope Banquet. The banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. at Cliffbreakers, 700 E. Riverside Blvd.

Morris and his story are the subject of the Disney motion picture The Rookie. Dennis Quaid played Morris in the 2002 film. His story is also featured in the TNN documentary, Fame for 15.

Morris was on his way to realizing a lifelong dream of becoming a Major League baseball player in 1984 when he was drafted in the first round. That dream remained on track, until a series of arm injuries and the surgeries that followed forced him out of the minors some four years later.

During 1988, Morris was out of professional baseball. He was busy raising a family and working as a high school teacher and coach. His dream was now reduced to playing in beer leagues and throwing batting practice to the team he was coaching.

Eleven years after retiring from minor league baseball, Morris was delivering a speech to his high school team about the importance of hard work and pursuing your dreams. That’s when his players challenged him to reconnect with his former dream of pitching in the majors. Morris and his team made the following bet: if the team won the district championship for their division, Morris had to try out for the first Major League team that came through town.

The team won the championship, and Morris had his tryout. He miraculously threw 12 consecutive pitches at a rate of 98 mph. This was 10 mph faster than he had thrown some 15 years earlier. He immediately signed another professional baseball contract this time, though, he was 35 years old!

In 1999, he spent only three months in the minors before he was called up to the majors to pitch for the Texas Rangers. During his first game in the big leagues, he struck out all-star Royce Clayton with a 98 mph fastball.

Morris spent two more years in the majors before retiring for good in 2001.

He will share his inspirational “Never give up on a dream” story at the banquet. Tickets are $35 per person and must be reserved today (May 9). They can be obtained by calling (815) 965-5332, ext. 125.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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