A couple years back there was a warm, feel good movie about a guy named Jim Morris. It was called “The Rookie,” featuring Dennis Quaid in the lead role, and told the story of an obscure, 35-year-old high school teacher who had jumped from coaching teenagers in Smalltown, Texas, USA, to pitching in the Major Leagues. The guy hadn’t played any organized baseball in over ten years or whatever, and on a bet from his gambling-addicted students, he tried out for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Okay, okay. So it was the 1999 Devil Rays (69-93 .426), but they did play AGAINST Major League teams.
As detailed in the movie, the dangerously handsome chemistry teacher hit 98-mph on the radar gun several times during the workout, prompting the desperate Tampa Bay scouts to wave a contract in his face. In two years service at the Major League level, Morris became the most famous left-hander in baseball history to finish his Major League career with an 0-0 record, 0 saves, and a 4.80 era.
Turns out Morris had been a prospect at one point in time, playing Class A baseball for a couple seasons before his inability to throw strikes and arm trouble ended his initial baseball journey. Fast forward about a decade, to the high school ballplayers goading the old man into taking one more shot at accomplishing his life-long, boyhood dream of one day struggling with his control at the big league level; then landing a book deal, selling the movie rights and filling up his calendar with motivational speaking engagements.
Morris walked 9 men in his 15 big league innings.
Dreams do, indeed, come true.
Now let me introduce you to a guy named Roel Torres. Like Morris, Torres is getting an unexpected shot at pursuing his baseball dreams in his mid-30s, but it’s not happening on the ballfield. Torres is a writer who recently got a call from the big leagues of hardball blogs, and now works as a featured columnist at a premiere baseball site called www.billjamesonline.com
Bill James is, of course, one of the most influential baseball writers of the past twenty-five years, and is credited with coining the term “sabermetrics,” as well as founding the Jeff Bagwell International Fan Club. James now works as a statistical-special-agent-guru- thing-a-ma-bob-person for the Boston Red Sox, and also runs the aforementioned web site where Torres plies his trade.
Unlike Jim Morris, whose so-so story has been manufactured into an inspiring, melodramatic cottage industry thanks to the creative prowess of Disney screen writers, Roel Torres’ journey is one of genuine substance.
The son of illegal immigrants from the Phillipines, Torres had to fight to stay in this country. Blacklisted by the Marcos regime, his family feared imprisonment or possible execution if they returned to the islands. After years of legal wrangling, Torres’ family earned the right to stay here, settling in the Boston area, where Roel enjoyed a typical American childhood of baseball, hot dogs and straight A grades at a private school.
Okay, he did well in school. Very, very well….and I’m a little bit jealous.
Although English was his second language, Roel demonstrated early on that he possessed a natural gift for composition, which caught the attention of his teachers, and helped him win first place in several National Writing Contests. Encouraged, Torres chased his academic pursuits, in between playing Little League and rooting for the Marty Barrett-led Boston Red Sox.
This young man, whose family was nearly kicked out of this country and fed to the wolves running Manila, wound up attending Harvard, where he graduated with honors (Cum Laude) in only three years.
Roel Torres was kind enough to sit down with me (1011 miles apart) via the super-magnetic-inter-highway. We traded emails back and forth, discussing his fascinating journey around the bases, and how the hell he wound up writing for Bill James. I’m going to publish the interview in a couple days. If you’d like to read Roel’s columns,go to www.billjamesonline.com. Believe me, it’s time well spent.