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In the Spotlight - Chris Morris

By Jason Blasco

    
   Every time St. Louis Cardinals prospect Chris Morris gets on base, the Midwest League pitchers have to look over their shoulder constantly, or like a bolt of lighting, he'll be gone in a flash.
 
  The fear and respect of Morris's base running abilities is very evident, as the infield often times is drawn in because of his bunting abilities.     
   
 Perhaps July 18, a muggy midwestern day, was a great example of Morris's base stealing prowess. The humidity didn't deter him from going 4-5, scoring the winning run in a 7-4 victory over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and tying the Peoria Chiefs career stolen base record with three stolen bases in one game, held by Warren Arrington (1988-1989).  The only player that is even close to Morris in the on-base category is Pedro Liriano with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who is over 30 bases behind Morris's current total.Morris has become the number one thief of the Midwest League.  Since June, he has successfully stolen 48 bases in 57 attempts (84 percent). All you have to do is take a look at the Midwest League stolen bases category to know how far ahead he is of the rest of the Midwest League.  With 87 stolen bases to his credit, he has already assaulted the Peoria Chiefs record book and is closing in on a 12-year old Midwest League record held by Ramon Sambo, who had 98. The big difference between Morris and Arrington is Morris took only 76 games, where it took Arrington 235 games to break the mark. It just isn't his base running prowess this season that is his weapon.  
 
  Morris also has demonstrated that he has a hitting prowess as well.  Week after week, he is getting closer and closer to the .300 mark by batting .290, with a homerun and 29 RBIs to his credit. 

    "Every year since high school, I felt I have really improved on my game.  This season, I have really started to do well," said Morris The first professional season for many baseball players can be a nightmare.  While Morris' first season in 2000 didn't produce great numbers, it wasn't a slide show of horrors either.  A sprained thumb really put a damper on his base hitting abilities, which caused his average to drop to .170 by the end of the season.  Even though the sprained thumb prevented him from hitting as well as he would have liked, it didn't slow down his base running ability.  He burned New York Penn League pitchers 42 times.  He also learned a lot from New Jersey coach Jeff Shireman. 
 
   "Jeff Shireman was very instrumental in my development as a player.  Everyday, he would work with me.  The first season was really difficult.  But it was also a great learning experience, " said Morris. When times get rough, Morris has someone in his family he can turn to for  advice.   Woody Smith, a former player in the Chicago Cubs organization, is his cousin.
 
 "He told me how the first professional season was going to be.  He told me to take your good days with your bad.  I've idolized him ever since I was 10 years old," said Morris. It wasn't long ago that Morris didn't receive as much attention by professional scouts.  The attention started coming in when he went to The Citadel. 
 
 "The Citadel is where I really honed my skills.  All of a sudden, after games, the scouts started talking to me.  One of the main reasons I was drafted was because of my speed," said Morris. In the off-season, Morris is constantly improving on his strengths and working on his weaknesses.  He lifts weights, and has a speed program that works on strengthening his upper body.  He also works on his arm strength to help improve his hitting abilities and his abilities to play outfield.  "I am trying to learn everyday.  That is what the minor leagues are for.  Right now, I am really working on my bunting, but I am trying to focus on everything to become more of an asset to the Cardinals organization," said Morris.


 

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