Morgan makes an impression

Nyjer Morgan goes from former junior hockey player in the North Okanagan to World Series contender with the Milwaukee Brewers.

A roadrunner in the outfield and on the basepaths, Nyjer Morgan of the Milwaukee Brewers once had visions of playing in the National Hockey League.

Tried out for the Vernon Vipers when he was 16. Got released and played in Enderby for Scott Robinson’s Junior B North Okanagan Kings.

Morgan later played defence or wing with the Nelson Leafs and Delta Ice Hawks in Junior B.

Nathan Macintosh of Vernon played with Morgan in Enderby and later in Delta, where they were roommates. He says Morgan made the right choice of sports.

“He was too quick (for hockey),” laughed Macintosh, a Vernon minor hockey product who works at Vernon Kia. “His hands couldn’t keep up to his feet. He was a banger. He was a lefty and he hit like a truck.”

Macintosh has a World Series ticket waiting for him should the Brewers knock out the Cardinals in the National League series.

“I just talked to him this morning (Friday) and he’s on Cloud 9,” said Macintosh, who exchanges daily texts with Morgan. “He said, ‘Can you believe this? I’m living the dream and I can’t believe it.’”

Morgan, 31, started competitive hockey in California with the San Jose Junior Sharks. His love for the game was ignited by watching the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

He also played a few games for the Western League Regina Pats in the 1999-2000 season before being cut.

“They always refer to him playing hockey in Regina, but he had a Gordie Howe hat trick, a goal, a fight and an assist in one game, and never played for them again,” said Macintosh.

Morgan, who has a daughter, Niah, living with his former girlfriend in Sicamous, is perhaps the most outrageous player in Major League Baseball.

Les Carpenter of Yahoo! Sports calls him “baseball’s Sybil” since Morgan refers to himself as Tony Plush which he says is his “name on the field” or “gentleman’s name.”

If you watch closely in these playoffs, you will see Morgan make a hand signal like a “T” after reaching base. He did it Thursday night in St. Louis.

He created a Twitter account this season and has more than 25,000 followers, including Macintosh and other buddies in Vernon like Jared Sochan and Jake Folliott.

“They told him to tone things down on Twitter after the (Albert) Pujols stuff,” said Macintosh. “Like him or hate him, he’s a competitor and a very humble guy.”

Morgan called Pujols, the Cards’ first baseman, “Alberta” in a tweet. Carpenter said the name “probably did not sit well with a man who has all the humor of a monastery and the last thing Milwaukee needed was to summon any more of Pujols’ ire.”

The Brewers benched Morgan in Game 3, likely in part to his tweets. He was back leading off in Game 4 and reached base three times and played some dynamite defence. He brings sizzle to the Brewers’ already zany roster and makes a paltry $471,500 a year.

Writes Rick Reilly of “The Brewers are a rolling carnival in metal spikes. One day this year, their stud left fielder, Ryan Braun, fell flat on his face between third and home and was tagged out. The next day, there was a body outline on the grass, a present from his teammates.

“One night, their center fielder, Nyjer Morgan, smashed a walk-off double, only he didn’t know to walk off. He thought it was the eighth inning…Morgan is such a hotdog he should be entered in the sausage race.”

Morgan’s comeback to Reilly: “I only come around once in a lifetime.”

“He’s a great athlete,” said Macintosh. “I watched him when he played for an all-star (baseball) team in Vernon and Vancouver. He is so quick. I actually beat him in a foot race when we were playing in Enderby. We were beaking off in the car about who was faster and we stopped at the side of the street near the railroad tracks and I beat him. He said we had to have a re-race and he beat me the second time.”

Macintosh has a Pittsburgh Pirates jersey in his sports den. He also has a couple of Morgan bobble head dolls from the Washington Nationals, who traded Morgan before honouring him with his special day.

A San Francisco product, Morgan attended the Delphi Academy High School in Langley and was drafted by Colorado Rockies in the 42nd round of the 1998 amateur draft, but didn’t sign.

He played for Walla Walla College in Washington and was drafted by the Pirates in the 33rd round in the 2002 lottery. He made his Major League debut in September, ‘07 with the Pirates and played some pick-up hockey with the Penguins during a two-year stay in Pittsburgh.

Morgan has been pretty much been a play of the night ever since. If he’s not making catches which garner comparisons to Willie Mays, he’s throwing his glove at a fly ball he dropped, allowing Baltimore’s Adam Jones to circle the bases for an inside the park homer.

A contact hitter, he smacked a walk-off base hit in the 10th inning of the NL Division Series Game 5 win over Arizona and here’s hoping there is more Nyjer highlights to come.

And of course a World Series ticket for his buddy Nate.


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