- Unbeliebable: White House turns Bieber petition response into immigration screed
- Obama signs law denying Iran ambassador’s visa, but says law is ‘advisory’
- Mich. judge to laughing convicted killer: ‘I hope you die in prison’
- Man charged in Kansas City-area highway shootings
- Keystone XL pipeline still on hold after State Dept. decision
- Fla. man charged with killing 16-month-old son to play Xbox undisturbed
- Drones from the deep: Pentagon develops ocean-floor attack robots
- Michigan mayor slaps back atheists’ try to erect ‘reason station’ at city hall
- PHILLIPS: Where is the conservative establishment?
- 7.5-magnitude earthquake shakes southern Mexico
Spark on any surface
Like most 7-year-olds, Nyjer Morgan dreamed of one day becoming a professional athlete. Just not the kind of athlete anyone would expect - or the kind of athlete he has become today.
Morgan didn’t dream of playing center field in the major leagues. He dreamt of hoisting the Stanley Cup at center ice.
Yes, the Washington Nationals’ new spark-plug leadoff man wanted to play hockey. Actually, he did play hockey, spending four seasons in the Canadian junior leagues before turning his attention full time to baseball.
For plenty of kids who grew up in Canada, the Upper Midwest or New England, that wouldn’t seem like such an unusual story. Morgan, though, grew up in San Jose, Calif., where hockey barely registered on anyone’s radar screen, let alone a 7-year-old black kid.
But from the moment he watched the 1988 Winter Olympic Games on television, Morgan was captivated by the sport.
“I told my dad I wanted to play,” he said. “Went to the local sign-ups and then went from there.”
There’s only so much top-level ice hockey a kid can play in San Jose, so at 16, Morgan took his game north of the border. He spent the next four years bouncing around several Canadian junior league teams, including the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, a breeding ground for future NHL stars.
Though he scored two goals in his debut game, Morgan (an aggressive, intense forward) wasn’t quite skilled enough to play at that level, and he was released after only seven games. Knowing he needed to go to school, he hooked up with the baseball coach at Walla Walla Community College and wound up starting a new and ultimately far more lucrative career.
With his speed, ability to track down fly balls to the gaps and talent on the basepaths, Morgan was a natural on the diamond. He didn’t draw much attention coming out of a tiny community college in Washington but the Pittsburgh Pirates made him their 33rd round draft pick in 2002.
Seven years later, he finally found himself with a starting job on a big league roster. And following his trade to the Nationals last week, the 29-year-old now finds himself as the leadoff man and center fielder.
Hockey, though, is always in his thoughts. When the Pirates had an off-day last April, Morgan and then-teammate Nate McLouth went to Mellon Arena and skated with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“He looked good,” said McLouth, who grew up in Muskegon, Mich., playing on outdoor ponds. “You could tell he was pretty good back in the day when he played.”
And when the Penguins, fresh off their Stanley Cup victory over the Detroit Red Wings, brought the famed trophy to PNC Park a few days later, Morgan was practically moved to tears.
“The whole thing gave me the willies,” he said at the time. “Honestly, I got really emotional. That’s our team, from our city, and I grew up with hockey as my first love. When you’re a kid playing hockey, that’s your dream, to see the Cup, to touch the Cup, and there it was right in front of me.”
Now that he’s living in the District, perhaps someone will gently point out to Morgan that the Penguins aren’t exactly popular in these parts and he’ll switch allegiance to the Capitals.
About the Author
Women losing coverage under Obamacare, too
- Scalia to students on high taxes: At a certain point, 'perhaps you should revolt'
- Former Ranger breaks silence on Pat Tillman death: I may have killed him
- Special Forces' suicide rates hit record levels casualties of 'hard combat'
- Feds approve powdered alcohol; 'Palcohol' available later this year
- EDITORIAL: Mark Warner running scared?
- Army goes to war with National Guard, seizes Apache attack helicopters
- U.S. Navy to turn seawater into jet fuel
- EDITORIAL: More Lerner smoking-gun emails at IRS
- Nancy Pelosi washes immigrants' feet in humble Holy Week act then promotes on Twitter
- Former Blue Angels commander relieved of duty for alleged misconduct
Top 10 handguns in the U.S.