Jim Morris has a great story tell ‑‑ one of perseverance and being a man of his word.
It’s for that reason he was chosen as the keynote speaker for the upcoming Rutherford County Boys and Girls Club’s 27th annual Stake & Burger Dinner on May 8.
Morris, you might recall, was depicted in the Disney movie “The Rookie,” which chronicled the life a teacher and baseball coach who tried out for the Major Leagues at the age of 35.
He subsequently was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays to a minor league contract and eventually worked his way up for a brief stint in the big leagues.
Originally drafted in 1982 by the New York Yankees, Morris battled armed injuries and was eventually out of the game seemingly for good.
He then became a high school teacher and baseball coach at Reagan County High School in Big Lake, Texas. He made a vow to his team in 1999 that if it won a league championship he would secure a Major League tryout.
His team indeed won its first ever league title, and Morris tried out and was signed by the Rays at the age of 35.
“We think that his story and perseverance is a great story and inspiration for our youth, and he is a great person for them to look up to,” said Michelle Clifford, director of marketing and special events for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Rutherford County. “That’s why we approached him and talked to him about being our speaker. He really has a fascinating story to tell to these kids.”
Clifford noted the annual Steak & Burger is the club’s No. 1 fund raiser each year.
“This is our largest fund raiser of the year, and proceeds will be benefit about 3,000 members of our clubs,” she said. “We usually sell about 60 tables, and we still have those and individual tickets available.”
Tickets for tables start and $1,075 and individual tickets are $175. The doors will open at 5 p.m. on May 8.
“We usually have about 200 people there,” Clifford said. “They (tables) seat 10 people, and two of our members will eat with each table. That’s what is so fun. You’re sitting and eating dinner with club members, and you find out their story and what the club has meant to them. It’s really a laid-back and casual event.”
While preparing for his Major League tryout, Morris’ arm strength surprisingly returned and he could throw in the upper 90s. He was signed by Tampa Bay and began in AA ball. He quickly moved up to AAA and then made his big league debut against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 18, 1999.
Morris pitched in 16 Major League games and never had a decision. He finished with an ERA slightly over 4.00 and recorded 13 strikeouts. He signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2000, but was later released due to arm troubles.
Morris released his autobiography, “The Oldest Rookie,” and the movie “The Rookie” came out in 2002.