Royals Pitcher Asa Lacey’s Mentor, Jim Morris, Is Responsible For 1 of the Most Inspirational Sports Stories in Recent Memory

Kansas City Royals pitching prospect Asa Lacy and his family have another reason to watch The Rookie if they ever see it on TV.

The Disney movie starring Dennis Quaid told the story of Jim Morris, a teacher who pulled off the improbable and pitched for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the late 1990s after a decade out of baseball. So what does Morris, 57, have to do with Lacy, a first-round pick in the 2020 MLB draft?

Asa Lacy is former MLB pitcher Jim Morris’ protege

Kansas City Royals prospect Asa Lacey (L) and former MLB pitcher Jim Morris.
Kansas City Royals prospect Asa Lacy (L) calls former MLB pitcher Jim Morris his mentor | MLB Photos via Getty Images; Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

At 14 years old, Asa Lacy began working with a private pitching coach in Texas. That coach? Jim Morris, a former relief pitcher with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In an interview with the Peoria Journal Star (Illinois), Lacy — a Kansas City Royals pitcher and the fourth overall selection in 2020 — explained the impact Morris had on him. 

“Everything he told me was good. Incredible human being and role model. He’s that one person I think of when I think of how blessed I am to be here.”

Asa Lacy

Lacy said Morris advised him on being a good teammate and holding himself accountable. Now, there’s a reason why all of this is so fascinating, and it goes beyond the considerable age gap between the two pitchers.

Morris is the famous teacher-turned-relief pitcher

Lacy was born on June 2, 1999. Morris made his MLB debut on Sept. 18, 1999, with the Devil Rays.

His journey to the majors wasn’t that simple. The fourth overall pick in baseball’s now-defunct secondary draft in 1983, he spent several years in the minor leagues but battled arm injuries. 

When his career ended, he moved to Big Lake, Texas, and became a physical science teacher at Reagan County High School. He also coached the high school’s baseball team and promised his players in 1999 that he’d try out for a Major League team at 35 years old if they won the district championship. 

Lo and behold, the Owls won the title, and he attended a Devil Rays tryout. Morris, 35 at the time, surprised himself and a scout by throwing fastballs at 98 mph, a skill that earned him a minor-league contract. He cruised through the minors that summer and debuted in the majors later that year.

In 21 games across two seasons, the left-handed Morris struck out 13 hitters and walked nine in 15 innings. He retired with a 0-0 record and a 4.80 ERA. 

Disney released The Rookie, a movie about Morris’ incredible story, in 2002. Dennis Quaid portrayed the pitcher, and the real-life Morris made a cameo appearance in the film as an umpire.

Lacy has a bright future with the Kansas City Royals

If all goes to plan, Lacy will get to the major leagues much quicker than Morris did.

Lacy, who stands 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 215 pounds, opened the 2021 season as a consensus top-30 prospect. The 22-year-old began the minor league season at Quaid Cities, the Royals’ High-A affiliate.

He struggled with his command in his first five starts, walking 16 hitters in 14.2 innings. However, he totaled 23 strikeouts in that span.

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