Fallon man serves as performance analyst for MLB team’s future players
Mid-March gave Fallon’s Josh Morrison an uneasy feeling.
With Major League Baseball teams closing down their spring training camps in Florida and Arizona because of coronavirus, hundreds of players and staff members were left in limbo.
The long 670-mile trip through the desert from Phoenix to Fallon gave Morrison time to think of his career as a performance analyst with the Cleveland Indians and what the future presented with a pandemic beginning to sweep the world.
“The day-to-day work slowed down,” Morrison said, after instruction ended at Cleveland’s Goodyear, Ariz., training complex west of Phoenix.
From a hands-on approach at the spring training camp to internet interaction, Morrison re-invented himself and the way he worked with minor league players, especially those from the Dominican Republic, where Cleveland has a training facility.
“We didn’t release very many players,” Morrison said. “I continued to have interaction with them.”
Morrison, whose roots in athletics began in his hometown of Fallon, still coached the younger players to become better and stronger, yet it was a gradual transition from on the field to virtual instruction. With all the shuffling of players, he said the camps and coaches shifted, and the staff redefined their roles.
“Everyone has done a good job juggling,” Morrison explained. “I’ve taken on a bit of strength and conditioning … it’s good to help out.”
Morrison has been working with the Double-A international players through Zoom video conferencing. He said the Cleveland ball club has also done a good job reaching outside the organization with speakers and other resources. Morrison has been working from his parent’s home in Fallon and also at their vacation property near Lake Tahoe’s north shore.
“It’s nice to take a Zoom call on the deck,” Morrison said, noting the envy of those players and staff members wishing they were also “marooned” at Lake Tahoe during the pandemic.
Morrison and the other trainers adjust frequently, however, with both the players remaining in the United States and those who returned to the Dominican Republic after spring training shut down.
“The Dominican players got back easily, but the Venezuelan players are still at our training complex,” Morrison said.
Venezuela shut down its borders in mid-March, leaving many of their players stranded at various training camps in Florida and Arizona.
“I feel lucky and blessed to work with the Indians,” Morrison pointed out. “Our ownership and upper staff members have taken a (pay) cut so we can stay and work with the players.”
Morrison said this shows the fabric of how close-knit the Cleveland organization is. He also said the Indians’ staff has adapted their strategies by relying on collaboration and project development.
Since the early weeks of spring training, Morrison has shown his adaptability. In early March, he was immersed in his role as a performance analyst.
“My role has changed a bit this year,” he said, referring to examining more of the younger players’ hitting and pitching. “I’m making sure the guys are doing enough to where they’re in a spot of getting better and not having injury risk.”
Before Cleveland hired the 2012 Churchill County High School grad in 2019, Morrison spent more time in strengthening and conditioning with the Oakland A’s for one year. Now, with Cleveland, he sees the overall improvement of the younger players and has immersed himself with meetings and collaboration among the different departments.
If the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t shut down baseball operations this year, Morrison was looking forward to returning to a new complex to the Dominican Republic where players would compete in a summer league and off-season camps. He said Cleveland has invested its resources in the Latin America complex. During the regular season, Morrison said he would’ve traveled to Cleveland to attend meetings to ensure everyone was “on the same page” and to have that face-to-face contact.
Morrison, though, said he was pleased with what he saw during the first month of spring training. While at the Goodyear complex, Morrison worked with 200 to 300 players, and that’s not counting the 60 to 70 players who remained in the Dominican Republic. A reward of success comes from Morrison’s work
“The players have been receptive and bought into the new ideas,” he said. “I see their joy from what I’ve done.”
As Morrison walks from field to field or to the gym, many of the younger players greet him with playful banter. Morrison, who’s fluent in Spanish, responds in kind. Smiles emerge. The players know Morrison is helping them with their overall game because he sees and shows them their improvement and progression.
“That’s a big part of my job,” he added.
Morrison, like baseball rookies, aspires to advance in the Cleveland organization, but he’s happy with his current role, although it’s via Zoom and not personal interaction. Overall, Morrison likes where he’s at in his career.
“The more our department grows, the more visibility sport science gets,” he said. “The players, coaches, organization … they see all the work of technology. My ultimate goal is to work up and be in player development.”
Working in professional baseball, according to Morrison, has been a perfect storm: he works in technology assisting players, he speaks Spanish and he’s involved with baseball. The Fallon grad said his friends think it’s “awesome” he’s working with Cleveland.
Even Northern Nevada old-timers who follow baseball as a religion remember when Cleveland fielded a Single-A team in Reno in the early 1970s. Players such as Duane Kuiper, a longtime broadcaster with the San Francisco Giants, and Dennis Eckersley, a Hall of Fame pitcher who competed for the Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Oakland Athletics and St. Louis Cardinals, both donned the Silver Sox uniform in 1972.
As with the fans who remember the Reno Silver Sox, Morrison hasn’t forgotten Fallon and the Greenwave. He competed in three sports every season, but he developed more of a love for soccer and track. He credits CCHS track coach Steve Heck and soccer coach Nate Waite with their training methods and how they developed their athletes to perform at a higher level.
“They were doing great stuff here 10 years ago,” Morrison added.
During his time under Heck’s tutelage, the boys track team captured two state championships in 2011 and 2012. Morrison was also a member of Fallon’s state championship relay teams.
Waite persuaded Morrison to learn Spanish, a language he was able to use in Tampa and now with his current role. In the classroom, he said science teacher Steve Johnson taught nutrition and biochemistry, two areas that enticed Morrison to pursue.
Upon graduation from CCHS, Morrison attended the University of Tampa where he ran track for his first two years, and then he went to Barcelona, Spain to study. He had several knee surgeries as well, which caused him to give up running. Morrison graduated from Tampa with a degree in B.A. in Spanish and B.S. In Human Performance and Exercise Physiology.
From Tampa on the East Coast to the Australia’s Gold Coast, Morrison earned his master’s degree in sports science. He soon discovered two years Down Under opened doors back in the United States.
“The same technology used in rugby is the same used here,” he said of his work with the players.
During the past decade, Morrison said his parents have been his biggest influence and supporters from attending his matches and meets in Fallon or visiting him in Tampa or Australia. He said they enjoyed their time visiting him and the complex in the Dominican Republic.
Morrison said his parents saw the players’ excitement in improving their skills. Their son also served as the perfect host in the Dominican Republic.
“I translated for them because they don’t speak Spanish,” he said.
Morrison then had an internship with the Queenlands Red rugby team and worked with players on their strength and conditioning. He also interned with the U20 national team and traveled with the players for several months. The team competed in the U20 World Rugby Championships in the country of Georgia.
Morrison claims he still retains a slight Australian twang, but that has proven to be an asset with Cleveland. His boss is Australian.
“We both understand the slang,” he said, grinning.