It’s possible no one knows what Preston Morrison is thinking.
The TCU senior will be standing on the mound, clearly concentrating, but not in a hurry. Not tense. Just relaxed.
And no one can tell a thing.
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“He’s a different breed, honestly,” shortstop Keaton Jones said. “He’s very confident and doesn’t let things get under his skin. Very down-to-earth. Very laid-back.”
What makes him tick?
“I don’t think anybody’s figured that out,” second baseman Garrett Crain said and smiled. “I don’t even know if he knows.”
Actually, he does know.
It’s everything and nothing.
“I think about a lot of things. I daydream a lot,” he said. “And it varies. It’s always positive.”
How could it not be? Last week, Morrison picked up his 29th victory at TCU, second all time at the school, in a 3-2 win against Baylor, and he’s going to be No. 1 in innings pitched before long.
Making it clear to Major League Baseball he wasn’t going to sign, he went undrafted last year, paving the return for one more year at TCU with seven other seniors who make the No. 1-ranked Horned Frogs perhaps the most experienced team in college baseball.
“I think he loves this,” Jones said. “This is a special thing that we get to do, play baseball in college, and it’s awesome. You only get to do this once in your life. He could have gone — I don’t know how high — he could have made some money. But I think he really enjoyed this, wanted to get an education, thought that was a big thing and wanted to come back and stay with us. He knew we had a chance to be really good our senior year.”
So far, that looks like the case. TCU (16-2) is off to the second-best start in program history going into this weekend’s Big 12 home series against Oklahoma State. Morrison (4-0, 1.15 ERA) is scheduled to pitch Saturday.
“I wanted to win a national championship,” Morrison said. “I wanted to be a part of this brotherhood one more time. For me, it was more about staying here and making this last year count. I’m so blessed to play with such a great team. I rely so heavily on our defense. I love all our catchers I’ve been throwing to. Obviously, our offense has come up big, in different ways each time.”
Naturally, it helped the team’s chances that Morrison came back. But it also helped the team’s chemistry.
“He’s very goofy,” Crain said. “He can make everybody laugh in the weirdest ways possible — I won’t give any examples of that — but it doesn’t matter what kind of humor you have, he’ll make you laugh. And he’ll calm you down, no matter what you’re going through.”
“He’s our guy,” Jones said.
Pretty good for a walk-on. Morrison, a 6-foot-2 right-hander from Waxhaw, N.C., said he got no offers out of high school. He said coach Jim Schlossnagle and former pitching coach Randy Mazey both told him they believed in him, a modest-throwing sinkerball pitcher. And he stuck.
“I just came here, basically on a whim, and I just believed that I could make the team,” he said. “I think it just goes to show that there’s more important things than numbers and velocity on the gun.”
Indeed. There is body language. There is confidence. There is what baseball people call “mound presence.”
“He slows the game down as much as anybody I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “I used to be a pitcher. On the mound, it can speed up. It can speed up real quick. For him, it’s just relaxed. He makes the pitch. That’s the biggest thing. He’s just very confident in himself. He slows the game down really easily.”
Morrison is doing nothing that other pitchers don’t also try to do. Maybe he just has a knack for concentrating.
“I’m a real low-key guy,” he said. “I don’t get worked up about who’s in the stands and what the situation is. I know what the situation is within the game, but it’s more about being aware. Especially as a starter — if you’re throwing 90-plus pitches, it can get easy to just take a pitch off; you’ve got a guy 0-2, you throw a slider or whatever and you hang it. I just breathe, know what I’m doing, concentrate on the pitch. ’Cause that’s all you can do. If you’re worried about everything around you, you’re not going to be as controlled as you can be.”
Although a little daydreaming doesn’t hurt.
“I always see us back in Omaha,” he said. “But for us to do that, it’s going to take a day-by-day commitment, playing our brand of baseball, playing clean baseball. Every day, it’s just about trying to get a win.”
Not a bad way to think.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
TCU vs. Oklahoma State
Game 1: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Game 2: 2 p.m. Saturday
Game 3: 2 p.m. Sunday