2021-2022 Vancouver Canadians catcher Anthony Morales is the latest to dish about life at and behind the dish on C’s Chat.
The Aibonito, Puerto Rican spent the majority of his baseball career in his native country, playing high school ball at the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy until 2016. He then went to junior college at Lake Land in Mattoon, Illinois and spent two seasons there. In 70 games with the Lakers, Morales hit three home runs and drew a walk nearly nine percent of the time.
Morales added a Canadian stamp to his passport in September of 2018 by taking part in Tournament 12 in Toronto. He suited up for Prairies Purple where he batted .400 with two doubles, two singles and two walks. Toronto would be in Morales’ future again when the Blue Jays signed the switch-hitting backstop to a free-agent contract on June 25, 2019.
Just days later, Morales was assigned to the Bluefield Blue Jays of the Appalachian League, picking up his first professional hit with a single against the Burlington Royals June 30 to begin a six-game hitting streak. Morales’ first two-hit game came against the Kingsport Mets July 31.
Due to COVID, Morales’ full-season debut was delayed until 2021. Playing time was sporadic for the 6-foot-0, 175-pound backstop but he recorded hits in four of six games with the Dunedin Blue Jays in July, including a pair of doubles against the Tampa Tarpons July 11.
Morales was summoned up to Triple-A Buffalo—or more specifically Trenton—to play for the Bisons as the team was relocated to make room for the Toronto Blue Jays in Western New York. He singled off the first pitch he saw from former Florida/Miami Marlins hurler Alex Sanabia in his Herd debut against the Syracuse Mets July 24. Morales had a base hit in all three games he played for Buffalo before being reassigned to Vancouver/Hillsboro.
During his time with the C’s, Morales collected his first hit and walk and scored two runs in Hillsboro August 27. He had another single in his final game with the C’s against Spokane September 10. Morales was on the move again as he was promoted to Double-A New Hampshire for the season finale. He went 1-for-3 and scored the Fisher Cats final run of the season in a win over the Harrisburg Senators September 19.
Morales returned home to Puerto Rico in the offseason and played in the Roberto Clemente Winter League for a team called RA12, a squad created by former Toronto Blue Jay Roberto Alomar for young professional players to match up against the more experienced competition in the league. Morales held his own with the bat by putting up a .323 on-base percentage over nine games.
Battling Zach Britton and Andrés Sosa for playing time with Vancouver in 2022, Morales did get a hit in his first three games of the season and recorded a hit in six straight contests July 17-28, He had a two-run single in Hillsboro to kickstart a seven-run second inning in a win over the Hops June 23. The 23 year-old then went 2-for-4 with an RBI double and an RBi single two days later against the Hops. Morales then made his first professional appearance at first base and got a double in his lone at-bat in the June 26 series finale at Ron Tonkin Field. Being at first base was not a totally foreign concept for Morales as he did play one game with RA12 last winter.
Another first for Morales—and it came against the Hops again—was his first career triple at Nat Bailey Stadium July 16. In his next start, Morales was 2-for-4 with a double in Spokane July 22. He also had a hit and a walk against Everett July 26.
C’s Plus Baseball caught up with Morales during the team’s Canada Day homestand against Spokane. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
C’s Plus Baseball – Let’s talk about how you got started in baseball. You were born in Puerto Rico. How did your career begin?
Anthony Morales – Just started when I was four years old with my dad. He likes all the sports so he was around my community. I grow up around all the sports but baseball was, I think, the most fun that I had. So that’s how I started. A lot of different teams during my career. That’s when I started. My family likes baseball. In Puerto Rico, everybody likes baseball.
CPB – When did you start catching?
AM – From the first time. My dad gave me catcher equipment and my brother (Kevin Morales) was a catcher too. He never signed (professionally) but he played so he was my inspiration to be a catcher too.
CPB – Where did you go in high school?
AM – I went to the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy. That’s the place where everything began, like how baseball really works, about how the coach worked. How the work that you need to put in to be a professional or to be a college guy. I think that was the base now to be here.
CPB – What would you say was your best baseball memory or your best game growing up in Puerto Rico?
AM – We celebrated for the first time starting a game between the two baseball academies there, the Carlos Beltran Academy and the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. And we celebrated Roberto Clemente Day to recognize all the stuff that he do. So we play in the big field in Puerto Rico, Hiram Bithorn (Stadium) and it was packed. That was a dream come true and to have his number on my back too was so inspirational. Another thing in my career was last year, (to) be around all the teams in the (Blue Jays) organization. That was a great experience.
CPB – Let’s start at the top with Buffalo. What was that like playing for the Bisons?
AM – That was crazy. I was nervous. I was in Dunedin and they called me up to help (for) like two weeks. That was crazy. A lot of major (league) guys there. I was (keeping an) open mind, trying to get everything I can and learn so I (gained) a lot of knowledge. My first game was with (Tommy) Milone, left-handed pitcher. We won that game. I get my first hit. Yeah. that was a great experience.
CPB – New Hampshire. Was it a huge difference for you from Double-A to Triple-A?
AM – I think the difference is about experience. Mainly more major league guys obviously in Triple-A. So when I got to Double-A, I feel like it was family. The main thing was to play the game. Got my first hit too there the last week of the season last year so that was a great experience to be there.
CPB – Dunedin. What was your experience like playing there?
AM – Dunedin was fantastic. That’s where I started last year. A lot of things that I learned there, I think were more on the mental side. How I can work with the game? How I can control all the situations on the catching side, offensive side, defensive side? I think the staff did a really good job. I can go to the games and enjoy it more. Be more in the present, relax and control what I can control in the moment.
CPB – You were with the Vancouver Canadians last year, but of course, you were not playing here but what was that like for you playing in Hillsboro and all the talk that maybe you would’ve come back here to play? What was that experience like for you?
AM – When they told us maybe (there was) a chance to be here last year, I was excited like, ‘Oh, we go to Canada’. But yeah, just with the uniform that says ‘Canadians’, that was fantastic. And I was excited to be here because I heard about this place and about the city so now we’re here and this is awesome. This is awesome.
CPB – So what you heard (about Vancouver), everything was true?
AM – Oh yeah. 100 percent.
CPB – What’s your favourite part about being a catcher?
AM – Throwing out the runners! That’s the fun part. That fires me up. One thing that I feel is help the pitchers and be around the guy. It’s not easy to be on the mound in different kinds of situations. So I just (help them) be relaxed and control the game. They have the ball so they don’t throw the ball, we don’t play. Just relax, be in the moment and execute. So that’s one of the things I must be thinking about.
CPB – Things are coming around with you with the bat. A six-game hitting streak, what’s been the key to your success?
AM – Yeah, I think the thing was I was thinking too much maybe because I do some adjustments during the off-season. So that adjustment got in my mind and I’m thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t forget this. I can forget this.’ So that was maybe (why) I was struggling a little bit. And then I just talk with Ryan (Canadians hitting coach Ryan Wright) and Ryan helped me a lot to just focus on your pitch. And we talk about the (other team’s starting) pitcher that day, like ‘Hey, this will be the approach that we can go with’. So that’s what I’m doing right now, just in my approach, the stuff of the pitcher and just get the bat to work.
CPB – How do you prepare as a switch-hitter? Do you spend more time on one side or the other, or you try to split it up evenly?
AM – Yeah. I try to split it every day but I think I even got more time (on the) left side because we got more (righthanded) pitchers. I started (switch-hitting) in my junior year. I was kind of nervous with that, but year, I was feeling that I can hit in both sides.
CPB – So was that junior year in high school or college?
AM – High school.
CPB – So how did you wind up with the Blue Jays?
AM – I went to college for a year-and-a-half. Because I got a injury in my wrist so I just missed a half of my last year. I missed my fall season. So I went for the last year (in the) spring. And then I came back to home (for) a year. One day, the Alomars had some tryouts in Puerto Rico and I went to one of those tryouts and that was a really good performance for me. And (Sandy Alomar Jr.) always was supporting me. So one day I went to the Dominican for some tryouts. That was when everything happened. They signed me, they sent me to Florida, Florida to Bluefield. A week after I signed, they sent me to Bluefield and I was like, ‘What is going on here?’ So, yeah, that was my first year.
CPB – How was that experience in Bluefield?
AM – Oh, that was crazy. You know, first year, I didn’t know what (to expect) in professional baseball here. Yeah, it was a lot of things that I learned that first year. Now I can work with everything.
Anthony also took the time to share his insights on some of the pitchers on the 2022 Vancouver Canadians.
Ricky Tiedemann – “Oh, he’s nasty. That guy, he got a future. He got a big future. I can see this man, like in the big leagues right now. He’s combined the fastball with the slider and changeup. I think one of the things that I focus with him is be relaxed on the mound. because sometimes he hurry up. Yeah. So when I try to relax him, I know he’s going to throw better pitches and he’ll be pretty good.”
Yosver Zulueta – “Zulu, same thing, Guys can see his performance, big leaguers. That’s my words for those guys. Big leaguer. Zulu is a guy that like to work hard. He get some injury last year and he came back stronger. Zulu has really good stuff too. Fastball is 98, 97, he touch 100 (miles per hour). So I think those guys are going to help this organization a lot. Great pitchers.”
Sem Robberse – “Another one, this guy have a little more stuff. He got like four pitches and he can command pretty good. And his last performance here (June 28 vs Spokane -5.0 IP/2R) was outstanding because he got something in his nail so he couldn’t spin at his slider and his breaking ball and he never quit. He just told me that we going to go throw fastball and changeup. And he got like five innings just throwing fastball and change. And that was impressive for me. So he quit those two pitches and just started throwing fastball and change. And that was an outstanding job.”
Chad Dallas – “Oh, Cheese! That’s my guy! Another one. Guys that when they are on the mound, you can feel we got another one here because they have really good stuff. Cheese has got more experience because he went to University. So they know a little bit more about this. I don’t have to work too much with him about staying relaxed so he’s not worried about it. So we are always in communication. Really good stuff too. Another guy that has a great future.”
- Uniform Numbers – Wore number 4 with Dunedin, number 62 with Buffalo, number 20 with Vancouver and 19 with New Hampshire in 2021.
- Instagram – @amorales_40
- Twitter – @amdcatcher13
- Walk-Up Music – “Locos Como Yo” by Redimi2
Un millón de gracias to Anthony Morales and to C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for making this chat happen.