Memorable Debut for Catcher Morales

By Tunstall, Brooke | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 10, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Memorable Debut for Catcher Morales

Tunstall, Brooke, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)

BALTIMORE - Willie Morales won't have any trouble remembering yesterday.

The weather was horrible, the first inning a debacle and, in his first major league game, the Baltimore Orioles backup catcher went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

"It was everything I dreamed of growing up as a kid," Morales said of his debut. "When they take a timeout and give you the ball from your first hit. . . . You see that happen all the time every year and you hope that someday it will be you."

After six seasons in the minors, Morales, 27, made the Orioles' Opening Day roster only after Greg Myers pulled a hamstring in the Orioles final spring training game April 1.

Morales learned Friday he would be playing and flew his father, Willie Sr., to Baltimore from his home in Arizona to watch the game with his wife, Jennifer.

"They were there for me for all the bad times in the minors and it meant so much to have them be there for me today," he said.

To maximize today's scheduled off-day, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove opted to sit starting catcher Charles Johnson yesterday, a bit of a gamble given the scorching bat Johnson (four home runs and 12 RBI his past four games) was swinging.

With Morales showing no jitters, the Orioles got production from Johnson's spot in the batting order. In the second inning, Morales sent the first pitch from Tigers starter C.J. Nitkowski up the middle for a single to jump-start a six-run rally that put the Orioles up for good.

"I got a fastball out over the plate," Morales said. "You won't be successful at this level if you let too many of those pass you by."

In the fourth, Morales, who went 8-for-16 in spring training, singled again to load the bases and set up a sacrifice fly from Mike Bordick that put the Orioles up 11-3.

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