Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,And sorry I could not travel bothAnd be one traveler, long I stoodAnd looked down one as far as I couldTo where it bent in the undergrowth– Robert Frost
By IAN WILSON
The pursuit of baseball can take a person down several different roads.
For an elite few, it can result in a professional playing career. For others, it may find them paying forward what they know as a coach. For most though, the detour is more pronounced.
“Baseball was always my first love. I grew up playing ball in the backyard with my dad and watching the Jays on TV. My first memory is watching the 1990 World Series on TV with my dad. I was only three then,” said Kent Morrison, who is now the weekend morning news anchor for Global Edmonton.
That love of baseball (detailed in a great story by Morrison here) was nurtured in his hometown of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. But after high school, it led him south of the border, where the third baseman landed a scholarship to play ball in Oakland, California for Patten University in the National Associaton of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
“Growing up in Moose Jaw, I thought California was all sandy beaches and surfing. That’s not Oakland. It was a total culture shock when I got there, but I met some amazing people and teammates that are friends for life,” said Morrison.
“I was the only Canadian at the whole school my first year, and a lot of teammates and even professors didn’t know much about where I came from. People talked faster and just lived differently than I was used to. I didn’t know the slang, but I caught on quick.”
Baseball in the NAIA also took some getting used to.
“I was in for a shock at the level of baseball. These are guys that played eight or nine months a year. I was lucky if I got five months of baseball growing up. There was a steep learning curve,” said Morrison, who played in California, Texas and Hawaii while he was with the Patten University Lions.
LESS THAN FIVE TOOLS
As a player, Morrison described himself as a “late inning defensive replacement” who had a good glove and a strong arm.
“In this game, you hit, you play … I couldn’t hit,” laughed Morrison.
But, while he spent more time on the bench than he would’ve liked, his time at Patten University was anything but wasted. In addition to the life experience he gained, Morrison also started to see a new career path develop.
“When I went to school in Oakland my mom made me pick a major. I always enjoyed writing, so I majored in communications. My freshman year I took a newspaper writing class and loved it,” said the W.P. Kinsella fan.
“That summer I got a job at a newspaper and started writing about baseball. I totally think my pursuit of baseball led to the journalism thing. If I had chosen junior hockey or even gone to a different school, I may not be doing what I do now.”
In 2007, he transferred to the University of Regina to continue his journalism studies. But baseball was still in the picture.
He played two seasons of collegiate summer ball in the Western Major Baseball League (WMBL), first with the Moose Jaw Miller Express and then for the Regina Red Sox.
“I think the WMBL is fantastic. It’s such a unique league with so many quirks. I don’t really think the people in the towns and cities that have teams really know the time and dedication and talent that these teams have,” said Morrison, whose favourite walk-up song as a player was Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
“You meet people from all over the world, you see some great baseball – and some terrible baseball – but it is always fun. These are all kids who are trying to make it in the game, spending their summers in places they’ve never heard of to further their careers. And the league is better now than when I was there.”
By 2010, Morrison graduated with honours from the U of R’s journalism program. He earned an internship at a TV station and his career path appeared set.
And while his WMBL playing days were over, another opportunity arose to be around the game he loves in 2011. The Regina Red Sox, managed by Morrison’s former coach Rob Cherepuschak and former teammate Justin Eiswirth, were looking for a third person to join the coaching staff.
“I said ‘yes’ before they even explained further. It was great to sit in the office and on the bench and talk strategy. I learned a whole lot from those guys,” said Morrison, who served as first base coach and “one hell of a fungo hitter” during the 2011 season.
Cherepuschak moved on the following year and Eiswirth took over as manager, making Morrison his right-hand man.
“Fun fact, and I love telling people this: I’m undefeated as a manager in the WMBL. It was late in the 2012 season in Saskatoon and Eisy got ejected midway through the game, so I took over,” recalled Morrison.
“We staged a comeback victory. I remember making a pitching change and getting to the mound and saying to the guys, ‘How did I look coming out here? I’ve never done this before.'”
It was a successful two-year coaching stint with Regina. The Red Sox won back-to-back WMBL championships while Morrison was there.
“The Regina Red Sox will always be my favourite team. I’ve got two rings to prove it,” he said.
After the back-to-back titles, it was time for Morrison to take his journalism career to another level, too.
“I had to start behind the camera. I shot and edited my own stories for the first few years,” said Morrison, who took over as morning sports anchor at Global Regina in 2013.
Then in August of 2016, he made the move to Alberta.
“It was a total career move to come to Edmonton. I was a co-host on a morning show in Regina and I got offered a job hosting my own show in a bigger market. It was a no-brainer,” said Morrison.
Despite his Saskatchewan roots, Morrison was excited to see the Edmonton Prospects make a run to the WMBL championship final this summer.
“Above all else, I’m a baseball fan. The Prospects are a big part of baseball in the city and I want more people to go see them play,” said Morrison, who ranks Adrian Beltre, Bryce Harper and Jose Bautista among his favourite current MLB players.
“There are a lot of baseball fans here and I’m not sure they all know about what they have in the river valley. That’s why I talk about the Prospects. I want baseball to thrive here.”
Morrison still plays and coaches baseball, but the less traveled road to TV journalism has made all the difference.
“I love telling stories. Always have,” he said. “This way I get paid to tell stories. It’s the best.”