JONESBORO (2/16/10) – The 8th annual Arkansas State Grand Slam Banquet, held Tuesday evening at the Convocation Center, was another success with close to 500 people in attendance to hear from featured speaker Jim "The Rookie" Morris and to meet the 2010 Red Wolves baseball team.
Fans not only had the opportunity to hear from Morris, but the former Major League Baseball player and subject of Disney's inspirational movie "The Rookie" also took time throughout the event to sign autographs and pose for photographs.
"We're just so excited to have someone that was able to share his inspiring dream and life story at our Grand Slam Banquet," said ASU head baseball coach Tommy Raffo about Morris. "What a special story that was told and we appreciate the time that Jim has given back to ASU baseball."
"I love being a supporter of baseball in any form, but coach Raffo and the coaching staff here have a great bunch of kids and I look forward to seeing how they progress over the year," said Morris.
The program began with dinner and a welcome from master of ceremonies Doug Doggett, ASUAssociate Director of Athletics for External Operations. Head baseball coach Tommy Raffo also addressed those in attendance, giving a preview of the upcoming season, introducing the Red Wolves and making a special presentation of the John Knight Baseball Manager's Scholarship to Jon Allen Garner and Blake Irvin. The banquet also featured a live and silent auction and autograph session with the baseball team.
Morris was the final speaker of the night, closing out the night's events in fine fashion with motivating words for the audience. Morris' childhood dream of becoming a major league baseball player was derailed by injuries. Eleven years after his retirement from baseball, Morris' dream was re-ignited by his then rag-tag high school team, when he was trying to inspire them to follow their dreams. They made each other the following bet: If they won a district championship, Morris would have to try out for a major league team.
Morris' team won the district championship and Morris followed through on his promise, going to a tryout where he threw 12 consecutive pitches at 98 mph. Three months later in front of family and his high school team, Morris achieved his dream of pitching in the big leagues by striking out all-star Royce Clayton with a 98 mph fastball.
The ASU baseball team opens its 2010 season with a three-game home series against Southern Illinois this weekend. The Red Wolves will play the Salukis Friday at 1:00 p.m., Saturday at noon and Sunday at 1:00 p.m.