*Nyjer Morgan, shown here in a Regina Pats uniform, was first spotted playing ball by former Colorado Rockies scout Bill McKenzie who drafted the Milwaukee Brewers cult hero in 1998. 2012 Canadians draft list
By Bob Elliott
MILWAUKEE _ The first scout to project outfielder Nyjer Morgan as a major leaguer was Colorado Rockies’ Bill McKenzie.
The Rockies’ Ottawa-based scout selected Morgan in the 42nd round of the June 1998 draft after seeing him play for the Kelowna Cubs in the British Columbia Premier League.
“When I went out to the coast to try and sign him after the draft, I couldn’t find him,” said the Ottawa scout. “Couldn’t find him anywhere.”
McKenzie was looking for Morgan at ball diamonds. Wrong place.
Hockey was Morgan’s love back then.
Milwaukee Brewers fans will hope to have better luck than McKenzie and can find Morgan along with the rest of his teammates at Miller Park Monday night.
Right-hander Shaun Marcum and the Brewers have to beat the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series Sunday night for that to happen. The Cards took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series Friday beating Zach Greinke, who had little defensive support.
Morgan helped get the Brewers this far hitting a game-winning, single in the 10th inning of Game 5 of the NL division series against the Arizona Dimaondbacks. He hit .304 with the Brewers becoming the most popular player in the history of the game with 37 RBIs.
Morgan had a sense of the dramatic with his bat.
He didn’t take any guff from players from the big bullies from St. Louis, be it first baseman Albert Pujols or Chris Carpenter, or anyone else.
He has an alter ego, Tony Plush who takes over in post-game TV interviews.
The Milwaukee burgers fell in love with Morgan where it has reached the point that Brewers fans worship Morgan almost as much as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun if you listen to the applause and look around at the names on the back of jerseys at Miller Park.
Morgan started all but one game against Arizona, he’s only started two of the NLCS and manager Ron Roenicke has also started Mark Kotsay or Carlos Gomez in centre.
The post season wasn’t Morgan’s dream growing up in San Francisco, Morgan wanted to skate in the National Hockey League and was recruited to play for the Vernon Vipers of the B.C. Hockey League and skated for the Nelson Junior Leafs in the Rocky Mountain Junior League in 1997-98.
The Kelowna Cubs and Morgan were at the annual Parksville tournament in May of 1998. Walt Burrows, MLB director of Canadian scouting, remembers Jordy Gerk setting a tournament record “like 18 strikeouts.” Gerk was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 16th round, attended Oral Roberts University and later was drafted, signing with the Detroit Tigers.
Morgan lived in Enderby, B.C. and attended Rogers Secondary School in Nelson, which is where McKenzie drafted him from.
The speedy winger skated for the North Okanagan Kings of the Kootenay International Junior League and the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific International Junior League.
Later, Morgan attended the Delphi Academy in Langley continuing as a two-sport man, playing for John Haar at the National Baseball Institute. Haar, a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame ran the program for 14 years, home to future major leaguers Matt Stairs, Corey Koskie, Denis Boucher, Rob Butler, Aaron Guiel, Paul Spoljaric, Steve Sinclair and Stubby Clapp to name a few. Morgan is the ninth NBI grad to reach the majors.
Morgan made the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League in 1999-2000 and scored twice in his first game against the Moose Jaw Warriors. Derek Boogaard was also with Regina. Morgan didn’t score again and was released after seven games playing three games with the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL.
Morgan concentrated on his other option in 2001 accepting scholarship to play at Walla Walla Community College in Walla Walla Wash.
Pittsburgh Pirates scout Kevin Clouser selected Morgan in the 33rd round of the 2002 amateur draft and began a five-year career in the minors.
Once he reached Pittsburgh, he got the chance to skate with Penquins at a workout in 2008.
Now, he wants a chance to play in a Game 7.