By Jacqueline Ortiz
Many people know him as “The Rookie,” from the hit Disney film that captivated sports fans and moviegoers across the nation. From humble beginnings in Brownwood, Texas, Jimmy Morris rose from the ranks of high school baseball coach to Major League Baseball pitcher. At the age of 35, in a league where most players retire in their thirties, Jimmy made his rookie debut as a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Morris coached baseball at Reagan County High School in the 1990s in Big Lake, Texas, a west Texas oil drilling community. When his team of high school students challenged him to heed his own advice to never give up on your dreams, they made a friendly wager: If his team won the district championships, he would try out for the majors again, reigniting a dream extinguished ten years prior because of an injury.
While his major league career only lasted a few years due to persistent tendonitis, Morris defied the odds and became a living testament for the power of a can-do attitude. His inspirational story was captured in his memoir, The Oldest Rookie, and made famous when Dennis Quaid played Jimmy in the 2002 film “The Rookie.”
His journey led him to BCFS, a global system of health and human service non- profit organizations headquartered in San Antonio. BCFS appointed Jimmy Morris the organization’s Motivational Specialist. In this role, he speaks to youth and families in BCFS programs and facilities around Texas, including “one-stop shop” centers for teens and transitional housing for youth from foster care and others struggling with poverty, homelessness or abuse.
“I want to give back,” Jimmy says. “It’s not about me. It’s about what God can do through me.”
Jimmy has served as the keynote speaker at BCFS events in Lubbock, Abilene, San Antonio and Kerrville for several years. Asennet Segura, who oversees BCFS’ Community, International & Residential Operations, called Jimmy’s story “truly inspiring.”
“BCFS aims to empower struggling teens and families to dream big, set goals, and work hard to achieve them,” says Segura. “So it’s powerful to show them what the quintessential underdog is capable of. Jimmy is living proof that no dream is too big.”
Throughout his major league career, Jimmy always kept in mind the lessons he learned from his grandfather, Ernest, about perseverance and success. “Remember who you are and where you came from,” his grandfather would say. Now 51, Jimmy lives those wise words daily.
As Jimmy works to inspire those in need, he confronts a daunting obstacle of his own. In 2013, Jimmy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that causes uncontrollable tremors throughout the body. As champions do, Jimmy has persevered through the diagnosis and pushes onward.
Jimmy’s enthusiasm is evident and he’s eager to serve as motivational speaker, mentor and advocate for BCFS youth and families. “It’s about who I can help, and who I can push,” he says. “It’s my job to tell the kids what they’re capable of.”