Hunter Morris Adjusts To Position Change in AFL
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About a year ago at this time, Hunter Morris was going through fall conditioning at Auburn University preparing for his junior season. Fast forward to today and the infielder enters today hitting .286 (14-for-49) in the Arizona Fall League with one home run and 10 RBI.
“It’s been busy year,” Morris said. “It seems like I have been all over. We (Auburn) had a pretty good year. It was a nice way to leave Auburn.”
Morris plays third base during a recent Arizona Fall League game.
Auburn did have a very successful 2010 season, reaching the NCAA Regional and finishing with a 43-21 record and a SEC West Division Championship. Morris gathered a number of personal accolades including SEC Player of the Year and First Team All-America. He established an Auburn single-season record with 23 home runs in 2010 and hit .386 with 76 RBI.
Selected by the Brewers in the fourth round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft with the 129th overall pick, Morris wanted to get right in the fold with the organization and quickly signed.
“I signed right away which was what I was hoping for,” Morris said. “I was fortunate to go to Wisconsin and start in the Midwest league. I made it there for about half of the season that is still a long season there.”
After signing, Morris played 71 games with the Timber Rattlers of the Class-A Midwest League. He hit .251 with nine home runs and 44 RBI. Morris now finds himself playing for the Surprise Rafters in the AFL as a late addition, replacing Brett Lawrie.
“To go straight from that (Wisconsin) with a couple of days off right into instructional league and then the Fall League here, that’s a lot!” Morris said. “Add that with changing positions and trying to make the transition from first base to third base, it has been a long year, but it’s been well worth it. I am very happy about everything and I feel like I’m making a good transition to professional baseball.”
Near the end of Wisconsin’s season, Brewers Roving Infield Instructor Garth Iorg talked to Morris about possibly switching positions from first base to third base in hopes of getting him more playing time and becoming a more versatile player.
“It was a much easier transition than I thought it would be,” Morris said. “There is always work to be done and always room to improve and I want to continue to get better, but to me, it didn’t feel like it was the first time I had played third base since high school. It went a lot smoother than I thought. To be honest, I am more comfortable at third base than first base. It will be great to have both (first base and third base) as options moving forward and will only help me out. I have about four gloves in my locker just in case!”
Morris is one of only six players selected in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft to be participating in the AFL. He joins OF Bryce Harper (1st overall, Washington), INF Zack Cox (25th overall, St. Louis), RHP Chance Ruffin (48th overall, Detroit), LHP Sammy Solis (51st overall, Washington) and RHP Jordan Swagerty (75th overall, St. Louis). Morris’ numbers prove that he fits with the caliber of players in the AFL.
“It is a good experience for him,” said Surprise Rafters manager Mike Guerrero. “He has shown a lot of ability and he has shown that he belongs here. We have given him a bit of a challenge in switching his position from first base to learning to play third but he has shown the ability to make the switch work. He has a lot of promise, a good swing and great bat speed–very fundamentally sound at the plate. Probably the best thing is that he has shown unbelievable work ethic and is definitely taking advantage of this opportunity.”
Morris is humbled by the opportunity to play in the AFL this early in his professional career, but also sees it as a tool to improve.
“I’m very blessed to have made it to this point,” Morris said. “Being here in the Fall League is a huge step in my professional career. There are guys who have been in the game four, five six years who have never had this opportunity. To come here and play and step right in and for the Brewers to give me that confidence to play at this level this early in my career is an honor.”
A native of Huntsville, Ala., there is a possibility that Morris would play for Guerrero and his hometown team, the Huntsville Stars this season.
“I want to make sure that I keep my body in shape and where it needs to be coming back to Spring Training,” Morris said. “There are times during the offseason you can let yourself go, and I need to make sure that I don’t put myself in that position. Coming from the SEC, a strong baseball conference and being a college guy, there is always that chance I can move fast through the organization. It is my job to come out and perform and be ready for the 2011 season at home in Huntsville or wherever they see the best fit for me.”
Notes: I’m back in Milwaukee after my week in Arizona and I will continue to post a couple of stories the rest of the week. Please keep your questions coming in for Brewers Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Melvin for a Q&A with him later this week……If you want to follow today’s Surprise Rafters game, follow this link…..I would also like to say “you’re welcome” to everyone in Milwaukee for bringing some of the mild fall weather and sunshine home with me from Phoenix. We will see how long it lasts!…..I don’t know if any readers follow any of the official Brewers twitter feeds (@Brewercom, @Bernie_Brewer, @BrewersHistory, @BrewersCF), but last Friday, Brewers RHP John Axford officially joined Twitter. You can follow him as well: @JohnAxford59.