Thursday, February 24, 2011

Michael Morse--Being His Own Person

In his first full season playing for Our Washington Nationals, Michael Morse slammed out 15 home runs in a part time role. He also proved to be very versatile, playing 1st Base, 2nd Base and outfield--while talking lessons to be an emergency catcher. "Mikey Mo" just wants to play and will do everything possible to get himself more playing time. After training concluded at the Space Coast Stadium practice fields yesterday, The African Queen & I chatted with Michael Morse for a good 10 minutes.  As always, he was funny and on point.

Here is that conversation:

Nats320: We just saw at 3rd Base taking grounders?

Morse: Yeah, I am just trying to beat Zim out for the job! I am going to give him some serious competition.  Seriously, I am just keeping by skills there, polishing things, taking a little rust off at all the positions. Last year, there was one game where I had to come in and be the 5th infielder. There is always stuff like that where it’s good to be ready for the season. My main goal is that if Riggs (Jim Riggleman) has to go down to the end of the bench and see someone to put in there, I want him to have 100% faith in me to make me his choice.

Nats320: Then you will be working on being an emergency catcher as well?

Morse: Yep. I am going to get out the catchers gear, hopefully not soon (chuckling). But I am just going to have to pull that stuff out and show them I can be back there. I just need to be ready at each position.

Nats320: Although you just said that you want Riggleman to consider you first when he looks down his bench, you have a good shot at being an everyday player in left field this year.

Morse:  (nodding in agreement) Well, I hope so. Everybody wants to be an everyday player and that was one of my main goals when I got to the Big Leagues. But I am content with whatever happens. I have 100% confidence and trust in my managers and coaches. I just believe I’ve proven myself enough for them to give me a shot (at starting). Who knows what I can do in a full season?

Nats320: When Josh Willingham got traded an opportunity opens up. Did that trade get you even more excited for camp to begin?

Morse: Absolutely, it did. But at the same time, it doesn’t change my mental process. It doesn’t change anything I do. Like you two saw me today, I am still taking ground balls at 3rd base. They (the coaches) could tell me today I will be starting in right field or center field or whatever, but I will still be taking ground balls at 3rd base, shortstop, everywhere just to be ready.

Nats320: Is there a position you are most comfortable with right now?

Morse: (Getting a big smile on his face) The most comfortable position for me is the position I am in that day. (laughing—but serious) Whatever position is placed on that lineup that day, that’s my favorite position.

Nats320: Remember last year when we were all talking at Nationals Park in the dugout, you said at that time--everything just felt right about The Nationals. Is it still that way?

Morse: Oh yeah. There really is something here that feels like home to me. The way they (the franchise) goes about their business, the Lerners, the coaching staff. I feel like I fit here more than any other team. I just feel like my opportunity to exceed is just so good here. And I like the direction The Nationals are going. We are going up. We are going up and I’d like to be around for a while to be apart of that.

Nats320: That makes you want to come to camp every day?

Morse: You better believe it, absolutely. Usually in spring training it’s a grind, spring training itself. But here, I am excited for when the games start. I am excited to get into the outfield with Jayson Werth, Nyjer Morgan and Rick Ankiel. I am excited to see it all come together.

Nats320: There seems to be a seriousness about this camp. It’s very quiet this year.

Morse: Our main thing is leave the fun at the door. We are going to go out and win and winning is going to be fun. But just coming out and playing just to play is not something we are not going to be doing here. We have a goal and our goal is to win. And it’s a mindset that teams like Philly have. It’s that kind of cockiness that the whole team brings with them when they go in to play a team. That’s the mentality we want. We want to be able to go into New York and play The Mets and when we get out there for BP (Batting Practice)—we own the place.  The Nationals are here!

Nats320: We’ve noticed Livan Hernandez now calls you “Mikey Mo”.

Morse: Yeah, it sticks. But you know what, guys like Livo—the minute they stop talking about you is when you better start worrying.

Nats320: Knowing you couldn’t have the number 28 anymore (due to Jayson Werth taking that jersey number)—how did you arrive at 38?

Morse: OK, this is sort of long. When 28 left me, which was a very sad day for me. It wasn’t a number I’ve had all my life, but it was a number I’ve always wanted—especially in the big leagues. It just felt good on my back last year. And one of the reasons it felt good was there was another number 28 in Jayson Werth (then in Philadelphia) who was doing really well.

And so when I first learned we signed him, I thought: Oh, No!  I immediately began to wonder. And I am telling you, within minutes that I saw the ticker on the television screen announcing the news, I got a call from Wally (Mike Wallace—Clubhouse Manager). He said: There are a couple of other numbers open? Me: Oh, OK  (in a dejected sort of way).

The problem was—a lot of numbers are already taken. He told me we had to leave a couple of numbers open. I said: Well…..ok. They might be signing some more people. So I decided, 28..38, they are sort of close. I don’t really know anyone that wore number 38. So I figured I could be my own person and maybe start a tradition with 38.

Nats320: And then 28 is playing with you.

Morse: Yeah, 28 is playing alongside me. He’s right over there.  28 & 38—Werth & Morse.

Nats320: People tend to compare you with him a lot, does that bother you?

Morse: I love it!! As long as it’s not about the looks, because he’s ugly!! (everyone busting out laughing).  As long as it’s not the looks. But seriously, he is an outstanding player. And even in camp, just talking to him, talking baseball with him, he knows baseball. That’s awesome and I understand now why The Nationals wanted him here. He’s a big part of the team, both on and off the field. He’s just a great overall guy even though he took my number.

But I will let that slide for now. Just wait though when I see him in the streets when we are 55 or 56 years old—I might kick him at that time for taking number 28.


Photo Copyright--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

Emily said...

So great to hear from Michael Morse. He is a class act and always has such a great attitude--that is why he did so well at the end of last season. Will be exciting to see what he does this year, but with that relaxed, confident attitude I think it could be a great year for him!