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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Mickey Morandini, Reckless Abandon - 606

Originally published Oct. 11, 2010
Mickey Morandini had turned down two offers from pro ball by September 1987, opting to stay at Indiana for another year.

It was a choice that obviously pleased Indiana head baseball coach Bob Morgan, and Morgan saw big things for the young infielder.

"What Mickey needs to do once he signs a contract," Morgan told The Pittsburgh Press, "is to go out and do what he's done all along. He has to hit in the top 10 of his league, steal bases and play with reckless abandon. I think he can be up there in three or four years."

The next year, Morandini signed with the Phillies, taken in the fifth round of the draft. He also made his major league debut on the low end of Morgan's time table, just over three years later on Sept. 1, 1990.

Morandini, a member of the 1988 Olympic team, made his debut in pro ball the next year, in 1989, playing that year at single-A Spartanburg and Clearwater and AA Reading. For 1990, he earned the jump to AAA Scranton, hitting .260 with 16 stolen bases and getting that call-up to Philadelphia.

He played 25 games for the Phillies that year, swiping three bases and hitting .241. He returned for another 98 games in 1991, hitting .249 and stealing 13.

His average increased a little for 1992, to .265. But, at season's end, it wasn't Morandini's hitting that people were talking about, it was his fielding. On Sept. 20, Morandini became the first National Leaguer in 65 years to get an unassisted triple play - catching the line drive, doubling off the runner at second and tagging out the runner from first.

"It really happened so fast. It didn't hit me until I got to the dugout," Morandini told reporters later. "Then I realized I'd done something few people have done."

In 1993, Morandini was a member of the National League Champion Phillies, helping them get there in the NLCS with a two-run triple and his fielding. The fielding was especially important in an NLCS with late-inning pitching difficulties.

"I was glad to be playing in those games," Morandini told reporters. "It's much easier to be out there and have some control over what's happening."

Morandini stayed with the Phillies through 1997, hitting .292 in 1994 and .295 his final year. In 1995, the year of his All Star appearance, Morandini got five hits in one June game. In 1996, Morandini slid home with the game-winner past the Dodgers' Tom Prince.

By 1998, Morandini was with the Cubs, taking over at second base where Cubs great Ryne Sandberg left off.

"I'm a line-drive, ground-ball hitter," Morandini told The Chicago Tribune that March. "When I first came up I hit a lot of lazy ground balls, but now I hit the ball on the line more, and that's why my offense has improved steadily over the years."

Morandini played two seasons with the Cubs then returned to the Phillies for 2000, finishing out the year and his career with Toronto.

His playing career over, Morandini took on the job of high school baseball coach at Valparaiso High in Indiana. He returned to Phillies camp in spring 2009 as a special instructor, eying a full-time professional coaching job in the future, just not until his children are grown.

Morandini told in 2008, he was focusing on using his experience to work with his high school players.

"I wasn't the strongest or the fastest," Morandini told "I kind of had to work harder than everybody else. That's what I'm trying to instill in these kids - repetition and hard work."

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