Did you hear this one about new Rays pitcher Charlie Morton …
PORT CHARLOTTE —“Everyone,’’ Houston manager A.J. Hinch says, “has a Charlie Morton story. They all center around him being selfless and all about others.’’
Hinch has several from his two years managing Morton, the deep-thinking Renaissance man and hard-working starter who signed on with Rays.
His favorite goes back to the greatest moment in Astros franchise history, when Morton coolly and calmly closed out Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.
“I’ve never seen an entire team rally behind one person the way that we did around Morton in 2017,’’ Hinch said. “When he had the final out, everybody is looking for somebody to hug, everybody is looking for somebody to celebrate with. And he was looking for his wife. That speaks to the man. That speaks to him not letting the moment get too big for him.’’
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There was the time in Detroit …
The Pirates, for whom Morton, now 35, pitched parts of seven seasons, were on their annual dads’ trip, where players and staff bring their fathers along.
Clubhouse manager Scott Bonnett had brought his dad, Jim, but still had a few hours of work at the stadium as most of the group was headed out to dinner.
“Charlie took it upon himself to grab my dad knowing I wasn’t going to be there and bringing him into his group with his dad and introducing him around,’’ Bonnett said. “I truly appreciated him going that extra effort to make my dad feel part of it. …
“But that’s just Charlie. He pretty much made it a point every day to come in, shake your hand, see how your day’s going, ask do you need anything. For me that goes a long way. …
“You probably see with the newer age ballplayers it’s not as much, it’s me first. Charlie is without a doubt a you-first type of guy, and then it’s him. … Every day with Charlie was a joy.’’
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There was the time in Oakland …
Astros TV reporter Julia Morales was going through the clubhouse doing quick interviews with players who had families on how well their wives handled things during the season.
Then she got to Morton.
“There’s nothing Charlie loves more than his wife, Cindy and his (now four) children,’’ Morales said. “Charlie told me, ‘I was hoping to get a chance to talk about my wife, her birthday is coming up!’ ” Fifteen, 20 minutes went by as Charlie described how much he loved Cindy and those kiddos. I completely forgot we were in the close quarters of the visiting clubhouse as I fought back tears.’’
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There was the time in Bradenton …
A young minor-leaguer who didn’t know much of anything, or anybody, named Tyler Glasnow was in the trainers’ room at the Pirate City complex when a veteran big-leaguer approached. “He had like no ego, you could ask him anything you wanted,’’ said Glasnow, now Rays teammates, and rotation mates, with Morton. “He talked to minor-leaguers like he talked to big-leaguers. Magnanimous is a good word. He’s an unbelievable dude. … Everyone was friends with Charlie. He was always available.’’
That scene would be repeated countless times with the Pirates, then with the Phillies and Astros, and assuredly soon with the Rays, Morton providing counseling, preaching accountability, propping up confidence.
“Charlie is just a remarkable human being,’’ Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage said. “They broke the mold when they put this guy’s personality together. He’s fantastic. … He can feel other people’s emotions, and he reads them well. … That makes him very special.’’
Bob McClure, his pitching coach during a mutually frustrating injury-abbreviated 2016 stint with the Phillies, had a similar view.
“He just has a kind heart,’’ McClure said. “He’s a kind spirit. You don’t see that type of tenderness too often in good major-league players. … He just treated everyone good. He’s just a good human being. It’s special. When you see a guy who has that kind of personality and that kind of compassion for other people, it becomes contagious.’’
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There was the time in Toronto …
The Astros were set to celebrate their clinching of the 2018 AL West title in Toronto without Morton, who had stayed behind in Houston to be his wife, Cindy, in anticipation of the birth of their fourth child, Emelia.
— Houston Astros (@astros) September 26, 2018
But before any Astro could pop a bottle they had to loop in their leader, outfielder George Springer calling Morton on FaceTime so he could some way be part of it, but he was more concerned with holding up their party.
“That was really neat,’’ Morton said. “I’m looking at my wife, looking at the phone. I could see everyone was starting to come in the clubhouse and they were getting ready. I was like, “Dude, you’ve got to go.’ “
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There was the time in Pittsburgh … (and in Houston, Bradenton and elsewhere without publicity) when Morton hosted military families via a variety of organizations at games, provided money for personal items for troops overseas and veterans at home, did PSAs to raise awareness. … The time he didn’t pitch well — and apologized to Hinch. … The time in New York he didn’t want to throw a planned postgame bullpen session because the stadium lights were off for a fireworks show and he was concerned the catcher couldn’t see and might get hurt. … The time(s) he thanked reporters for interviewing him and asked if they had everything they needed. … The time he was added to the All-Star team but was more concerned about why Astros teammate Colin McHugh wasn’t.
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There was the time in Port Charlotte …
Standing in the Rays clubhouse on Friday, wrapping up a half-hour talk that, somehow, covered Morton’s grandfather’s military service, acoustic tips for best recording drum sounds, how he met his wife in a Rhode Island bar, why they don’t have a nanny to help with four kids under six, his take on clubhouse dynamics and more, I asked him what to this point he was most proud of.
“Honestly, the fact that you’re coming up and telling me people are saying all these good things about me,’’ he said. “That’s probably the most rewarding thing. I don’t think it’s even close.
“Say you got to the big leagues and weren’t able to stick around but, okay, he’s a great guy. At that point it would probably be that I made it the major leagues. But having had a long career and accomplished some things in baseball, from where I sit now it’s that you came up and said these nice things about your being appreciated for being a good teammate and a decent human being.’’
And that’s all the time.
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.