The latest C’s Chat is with 2021-2022 Vancouver Canadians first baseman P.K. Morris.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Morris joined the Toronto Blue Jays after starring at Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida, about 30 minutes north of his birthplace Tampa.
According to The Laker/Lutz News, Morris hit eight home runs, 17 doubles and 43 runs batted in over his last two seasons at Steinbrenner. As a left-handed pitcher, he had a career 2.71 earned run average with 82 strikeouts in 95-2/3 innings.
Ranked as the 89th best draft prospect in the state of Florida by Baseball America, the highly-respected publication had this to say about Morris.
“Morris has a reputation for his dangerous lefthanded bat. He’s got a knack for driving the ball with tight backspin and shows above-average bat speed with a quick, whippy swing. As a prep first baseman with limited track record against hitting against professional-caliber pitching, Morris could boost his draft stock by proving himself in college.”
Morris could have attended college but decided to turn pro instead when the Toronto Blue Jays selected him in the 14th round of the 2017 draft. He received a signing bonus of $206,500 to turn down Florida Atlantic. His signing scout was Matt Bishoff.
The Blue Jays kept close tabs on Morris prior to the draft as he was part of their scout team at the Perfect Game League in his draft year.
Morris made the slow and steady climb towards Vancouver by getting his feet wet with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 2017. The left-handed hitting Morris collected his first hit against the GCL Phillies July 15 but endured a tough first month by hitting just .159 in 11 games. His August went much better as hit .391 over the final seven games of the year.
The first professional home run of Morris’ career came in 2018 with the Bluefield Blue Jays against the Burlington Royals June 22. He opened the year with a five-game hitting streak but batted just .215 and slugged .327 with four home runs and 19 runs batted in. Two of those home runs came in Pulaski August 24. Morris did show a good eye at the plate with a .326 on-base percentage as he had a walk rate of 13.8 percent.
A return engagement to Bluefield awaited Morris in 2019 and he improved his slash line to .253/.370/.416 with seven doubles, eight homers and 43 RBI. It appeared Morris was ticketed for Vancouver in 2020 but COVID happened and the minor league season was cancelled.
The first exposure to full-season ball came in 2021 when Morris reported to Low-A Dunedin. His best game of the year took place May 8 when he homered twice and walked twice to drive in six runs against his hometown Tampa Yankees. After a .212 May, Morris batted .250 or better from June to August before hitting .297 over 11 contests in September. He collected 21 doubles, two triples, nine homers and 57 RBI and put together a line of .251/.407/.412.
Morris’ play at first base also earned him recognition from Baseball America as it named him the best defensive first baseman in the Low-A Southeast League.
The two-way play from Morris led to his first in-season promotion as he was assigned to Vancouver for the final week of the 2021 season. He got his first hit as a member of Monty’s Mounties in just his second game against Hillsboro September 15.
Finally getting north of the border, Morris showed some early thump with the C’s to begin 2022. His first two hits of the year were doubles in the first two games at Spokane and his first home run was a big one as he connected for a grand slam in the 10th inning of the second game of a doubleheader sweep in Tri-City April 15. Morris then belted two home runs, including a walk-off shot in the 10th as the C’s rallied to knock off Everett May 6. That performance helped Morris earn the Northwest League Player of the Week award May 2-8. The next time P.K. went deep was fitting as he homered at P.K. Park in Eugene in the second game of a doubleheader against the Emeralds May 14.
The strong start has helped the 23 year-old Morris rank among the five in the Northwest League in batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.362) and runs batted in (22) heading into the final week of May.
C’s Plus Baseball talked to Morris recently about his pro beginnings, how a 2011 Vancouver Canadian influenced his career and the strong start to his season with Vancouver. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – You get drafted in the 14th round in 2017 by the Blue Jays. Talk about what it was like getting drafted.
P.K. Morris – Yeah, it was definitely an awesome experience. You know, being the small percent that’s able to pursue baseball past at least high school at the collegiate level so that was definitely awesome. I got picked up late. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to school or not. It kind of took me a while to make that decision, but I ended up signing obviously and it was the best decision I made so I was definitely very happy with it.
CPB – Florida Atlantic, they were interested in trying to get you on campus but you figured going pro was the best route to go?
PKM – Don’t get me wrong, it was a really tough decision. They got a good coach over there but I mean, you can’t beat professional coaching at a young age so that’s ultimately what kind of sealed the deal for me.
CPB – As far as the draft day experience, were you following on the computer or were you with friends? How did that all go down for you?
PKM – Originally the Blue Jays called and wanted to take me in the sixth round but that didn’t work out so I just went on with my day. I think day three came around to the draft and I was actually with my friend and I just kind of saw my name pop up and it was pretty cool so that’s how it happened. That’s how I saw it.
CPB – Obviously you must have had an inkling the Blue Jays were interested in you. As you mentioned, they were looking at taking in the sixth round. You were with the Blue Jays scout team in the Perfect Game League so you had a pretty good clue then that they would be one of your suitors?
PKM – I guess yeah, I definitely knew since I was kind of a local guy just north of Tampa, so about 40 minutes from Dunedin. I went to a few pre-draft workouts at the facility so I definitely knew they were on the radar for sure about picking me. I was also talking to about five other teams, not too many, but I mean it’s a great organization. I’m thankful I got to be a part of them and they picked me so it’s been awesome.
CPB – Who’s helped you out along the way in your baseball career? Any coaches who have helped you out the most?
PKM – Luis Hurtado has been a big one. He’s been with me since the GCL in 2017, ’18 was with Dennis Holmberg and then Bluefield, the next year with Hurtado in ’19 and then Low-A last year with Hurtado. And now he’s in the big leagues. He’s kind of been my manager almost every season throughout my career and we put a lot of work in together. So definitely, Luis Hurtado has helped my career out a lot and helped me better my game for sure.
CPB – Is there any specific way that he’s helped you out? As far as maybe your offensive approach at the plate, your mental approach or anything like that?
PKM – He’s just out there and works with you every day. He gives you 100% every day, so I mean that’s all you can ask for out of the coach. I mean, from the defensive side to just whatever you needed. He was there for you and made you feel like family.
CPB – How did you get started in baseball? You were at Steinbrenner High School in Florida. How would you say your career went while you’re growing up?
PKM – I always played baseball since I think I was four or five. I always played baseball. That was my only sport. I was a pitcher for most of my career. Didn’t throw hard, didn’t really have a career in pitching, didn’t have the best arm. I was lucky that I was able to find the bat and, you know, start making strides offensively so that was the biggest thing.
CPB – Now let’s take a look at your pro career. It’s been getting better slowly but surely, making your way up the ranks. And of course with COVID canceling 2020, who knows, you might have been here (in Vancouver) in 2020? What was it like going through your career, starting things off and then having to deal with COVID? How were you able to weather the storm?
PKM – Coming out of high school, pro ball was definitely a bit of a jump so it definitely took me at least a few years to kind of get the ball actually rolling. Coming from high school, (there’s) a lot of velocity, you definitely see some good pitchers. Pro ball pitchers, I mean, it’s a different ball game once you’re in pro ball. Velos go up, all that stuff. So just getting used to that and kind of finding what worked for me at the plate. I just kept hammering at my work every day.
CPB – Last season was the the first full season you had with Low-A Dunedin and you certainly had a pretty good month of July. You had a two home run game earlier in the year. Talk about what your season was like with Dunedin last year.
PKM – I thought overall I had a pretty good year. You know, it could have been better. There were a lot of ups and downs. I definitely got a little too picky last year which I think could have maybe brought the production down a little bit. So this year I’m just trying to be ready for every pitch every time I’m in the box and just being ready. It’s been the biggest thing for me.
CPB – You did get a late season call up to Vancouver, or really Hillsboro, for the final week. How did that feel to get that late season promotion and how did you find out about it? Who broke the news?
PKM – Luis Hurtado actually told me when I was down there at Low-A. It was awesome coming up here for the last week. It was awesome to kind of get my feet wet in (High)-A and kind of play that week and see how the pitching is so it was definitely great for me.
CPB – Carrying over into this year, talk about the grand slam you had in Tri-City. That was a nice way to get your season started.
PKM – Yeah, definitely. No doubt I needed that one that night. I was glad I was able to help the team because we needed it.
CPB – And of course the two home run game here (in Vancouver against Everett). You started the rally, you finished the rally with the walkoff. I don’t know how many walk-off hits you’ve had in your career but I’m sure that’s got to rank up there pretty high.
PKM – Yeah, it’s definitely, definitely up there. I mean, you always love to be in that situation, you know. I think that’s what a lot of us dream of in those big situations, especially with this fan base, is really cool. I was just glad I was able to help the team win that day, You know what I mean? Every day, it’s a different guy. You never know when it’s going to be your turn. Your team needs you the most in that at-bat. I was very glad to be able to get that done.
CPB – The Player of the Week award you got. How did you find out about that and how do you feel when you when you found out?
PKM – I think the Canadians actually posted something on one of their social media sites and I saw that I had gotten it, you know, and I was pretty definitely pretty happy about that. That’s the first time that’s happened in my career. So that’s definitely awesome and we just got to keep the ball rolling.
CPB – How have you found hitting here at Nat Bailey Stadium? It’s been described as a pitcher’s park but how do you see it from your vantage point?
PKM – I think it’s pretty much the same that I’m used to. There’s nothing too different about it, but it’s pretty similar.
CPB – You get to go to Eugene, Oregon at PK Park.
PKM – Yes.
CPB – You had to homer there at least once. Were you feeling extra pressure to live up to your name at the stadium so to speak?
PKM – Yeah no, definitely. I didn’t know it was PK Park before we got there so seeing that was definitely pretty cool. But yeah, I was definitely glad I was able to hit one in my own park as you will. It was a cool park, a cool area and a cool experience.
CPB – Speaking of your name, I know your first name is Patrick. I looked all over the Internet trying to find out what the K stands for. Do you have a middle name (starting with) K or is it just a nickname?
PKM – The K comes from my middle name which is Kasey, obviously spelled with a K, so that’s kind of how PK started.
CPB – Defensively, I’ve really noticed you play a really good first base. Your fielding percentage is pretty high. You show good range around the bag. That’s something I guess you really do take pride in is, (not just) scoring runs but saving runs too.
PKM – I definitely take a lot of pride in my defense, no doubt about that one. I love playing first base. I think that’s part of it too, you know, you got to love what you do. Coming into pro ball, this is my fifth year now. It took me some years to get to the point where I’m at now. A lot of that work has been with Hurtado like I said before, helping me out over there, I’m hammering away every day just trying to get better. I’m so glad I’m at the point where I’m at and we got to keep it going.
CPB – It’s always an advantage at first base to be able to throw left-handed. It’s easier to start 3-6-3 double plays. What’s it like just having that advantage with you at first base?
PKM – It’s definitely nice not having to spin and do all that so I guess I’m a little more in the driver’s seat at first being a lefty which is nice. I just try to hold it down over there and do the best I can for the pitchers and get them as less an amount of pitches as they need.
CPB – You played one game in left field. It was the very first time you were not at first base. What was that like playing out in left field here at The Nat?
PKM – It was pretty cool. We got the bullpen down there so I run out and talk to the bullpen guys before the inning starts which is pretty cool. I haven’t done that in five years so yeah, it’s nice. I’m actually playing left again tonight (Tuesday, May 17 against Tri-City) so I get another little turn out there. I think that’s something they want to do is maybe have me out a little more in left. Just to bring a little more versatility, playing first and being able to play a little bit of outfield too. Like I said, I pitched a lot but once I started hitting, you know, I played a little bit of outfield in high school with first base too. In travel ball, I always played a little bit of outfield growing up so it’s not like I was brand new to the outfield but it definitely takes some getting used to from being at first for these five years.
CPB – If you had to describe yourself as a player, how would you describe yourself? How would you give a scouting report of yourself?
PKM – I would definitely say I’m a gamer. You know, I love to compete and love to help my team when I play hard.
- Uniform number – Wore #25 with the C’s in 2021 before switching to #12 in 2022
- High School teammate – 2021 C’s pitcher C.J. Van Eyk
- Favourite baseball team – Boston Red Sox
- Favourite baseball player – David Ortiz
- Walk-up Song – “Jackie Chan” by Tiësto & Dzeko ft. Preme & Post Malone
- Instagram – @pkmorris13
- Twitter – @pkmorris555
Thanks a million to P.K. Morris for taking time to chat in this episode of C’s Chat and to Tyler Zickel for setting up the interview.