Alfonso Soriano doesn’t get the chance to watch many Chicago Cubs games at his Tampa, Fla., home, but he’s seen enough of rookie Christopher Morrell to know that the rookie’s future is promising.
“Oh man, I’ve seen him and he has a lot of talent,” Soriano said Wednesday while treating his son Allen’s Travel League team to a night at their old stomping ground. “So I hope he can have a good career. He has already shown it in a few matches.”
Morrell and Soriano are kind souls, so it’s nice to see Morrell introduce himself to the former Cubs star during batting practice at Wrigley Field.
But Morrell has been MO since making his Major League debut on May 17 and scoring a home run in his first at-bat at Wrigley Field. He has become the Cubs’ unofficial ambassador, placing the cubs in the Friendly Confines.
Morrell began Wednesday’s game against the San Diego Padres in the same way he has had all season – by greeting the plate umpire and the catcher with a fist bump before proceeding to the first inning.
Most of the umpires patted Morrell on the back, although CB Buckner refused the second night, giving him a polite gesture instead. Morell said it’s a tradition he started in the minors.
“Every time I get a chance to say hello to someone, I do it,” Morell said. “If someone likes me, I like it too.”
It is refreshing to see young players like Morel coming forward and enjoying the moment. A major-league career moves quickly, and a player can turn bitter at a young age if he lets the pressures of the game take over.
Soriano knew that and never got to the ballpark in a bad mood, never got affected by fan booing and never hid from reporters when he was in a slump.
That’s why a few dozen old acquaintances — front office workers, clubhouse workers, journalists and security guards — stopped in the field before Wednesday’s game to say hello to Soriano, who has since been traded to the New York Yankees. Rarely has Wrigley come back. 2013.
Soriano had a job he loved and said he would never forget it.
“I was fortunate that I had the talent to play,” he said. “Why would I ever be mad? I played for a long time and did something that I loved. I love when I hear that the game has the mindset of young people and that character, which is great for Morrell.”
The Cubs need Morel now more than ever as the season is winding down. They lost their ninth straight Wednesday, fell to the Padres 19-5, and were dismissed 61-15 in their last five games. The National League Central is in danger of being passed out by the lowly Cincinnati Reds, who started the season 3-22.
This is going to be a long season for the Cubs. No one expected much to go inside, but it’s been hard to see nonetheless. So fans need reasons to watch the remaining 100 games, and the Cubs need advertisers for the marquee sports network and people are going nowhere over the course of a season to buy beer and hot dogs at Wrigley.
Morrell and top pitching prospect Caleb Killian, who were recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday to face the Padres, are two kids who could make things interesting. Morrell has already sealed a spot in the roster. He began his career playing solid defense in center field and reaching base in a franchise-record 22 straight games on second, third and shortstop.
“They’ve got some long levers, there’s real power,” manager David Ross said recently. “Carrying him around the field, his skill set, equipment is visible daily. He’s still learning for a while. He’s still a kid with everyone running around, and sometimes we just need to rein in him in that area. ,
That would be a shame. Baseball needs players who feel like they’re enjoying themselves, and the Cubs have a tradition of enthusiastic players, from Jose Cardenal to Sammy Sosa, Soriano to Morell.
Morell is starting to get noticed more often as he drives his scooter to the ballpark or stops by the local Starbucks.
“Every time this happens I say thank you to God for this moment,” he said. “It’s super amazing. I feel like I have a lot of support going around with whatever happened. But my responsibility to the team is to focus on baseball and that’s what I’m doing.”
Meanwhile, Killian got off to a poor start on Wednesday, throwing 30 pitches in the Padres’ two-run first innings pitch with 19-mph wind. He hopes to hold off briefly, but was called up for a second start due to injuries to Marcus Strowman, Drew Smiley and Wade Miley. None of the three experienced starters is close to a comeback, but that doesn’t mean Killian won’t be sent back to Iowa.
“At some point he’ll be into that thing every day as long as he keeps doing what he’s doing,” Ross said, referring to the rotation. “Their future is really bright in our eyes. If you go out and do that, you’ll never go back. That’s usually what a major-league player’s tenure is like.”
Morell paved the way. Now it is up to Killian to follow in his footsteps.