Marlins rookie connects through tweets

Shortly after 9pm last night my hero, Thomas Morrison, passed away. To the world he may have been just a somebody, but to this somebody he was my world.

… Tweet from @LoMoMarlins, Dec. 9, 2010

With one message into cyberspace, Logan Morrison revealed so much about himself.

The news itself was heartbreaking: Thomas Morrison, who served his country in the Coast Guard, died less than eight months after being diagnosed with lung cancer. By then, many baseball fans knew the family’s story: How Thomas asked a doctor if he would live long enough to see his son’s first big-league hit; how the illness kept him from traveling to Logan’s debut in San Francisco last July; how Thomas took a triumphant 29-hour train ride from New Orleans to New York to witness his son’s first triple last August.

Logan Morrison is still only 23 years old, a brawny left fielder for the Florida Marlins with All-Star potential and so much ahead of him. But he cried after learning of the diagnosis last April, and his father’s mortality was never far from his thoughts thereafter.

Logan Morrison didn’t know how much time he had to make the memories they both wanted. So, he did what his dad taught him to do over so many years: He worked like hell.

“It’s not like I didn’t play hard before,” Morrison said Wednesday at the Marlins’ spring complex. “But when you’re playing inspired, it pushes you another notch. I think that helped me. That’ll continue to help me. You don’t take life for granted. You don’t take any days for granted. You don’t take at-bats for granted. You’re lucky to be alive.”

Morrison is a big-league baseball player, but he endured the same anguish as so many of those who buy tickets to watch him play. And maybe that’s why, as he mourned with his family in Slidell, La., he shared that message of grief and love with thousands of fans.

Tweeting, you see, is not always trivial.

Was it difficult for Morrison to put such a personal reflection on the Internet for everyone to see? Or just the opposite?

“Well,” he said, “I think it was pretty easy, because it was known that he was sick. The (media) coverage was really good whenever he came to the game. They always interviewed him. He got to talk and share his feelings about watching me play baseball.

“It was a dream of mine. It was a dream of his. And he got to call his son a big leaguer, which is really special. I’m glad he did.”

Morrison has been tweeting for just over a year. The vast majority of his musings are lighthearted, in keeping with his fun-loving, talkative personality. Among his recent highlights: Im at jumby bay if anyone wants to entertain me … True or false – Logan got a mani and pedi today hahahaha … I have my phone back. I don’t sing Kelly I sing Brittany spears. Usually hit me baby one more time.

Morrison has more than 12,500 followers. His fans certainly would have understood if he wanted to keep his thoughts private after a family tragedy shook his world. Instead, he welcomed strangers into his emotional sanctum. Many responded with messages of support. They said they were sorry. They said they lost their fathers, too. They said they were there to help if he needed anything.

He received thousands of replies in all.

“It’s real, man,” he said, emotion still swelling in his voice three months later. “I’m just trying to be real with everybody, letting them know how much he meant to me. I hope I mean that to somebody else, whether it’s (as a) kid trying to play left field for the Florida Marlins, or my boy someday.”

Those unfamiliar with social networking might not understand why Morrison was so willing to open a door to his deeply personal experience. But to him, it was a reflexive display of emotion. The act was genuine.

And that helps explain why Morrison is so popular, on Twitter and in the clubhouse.

“Logan is who he is, whether it’s on Twitter or in here amongst us,” Marlins catcher John Buck said. “He is who he is. People take to that. He’s a real dude who happens to play ball. He’s interesting.

“That’s what attracts people to him: He’s a real person. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing. That’s a good quality to have.”

Buck (@14buckshot) is one of several Marlins who began tweeting recently. Infielder Donnie Murphy (@dmurphyirish22) joined, too, in part because of peer pressure from Morrison and tweeting teammates John Baker and Bryan Petersen.

“Everyone’s like, ‘Hey, did you read my tweet this morning?’” Murphy said. “I saw them doing it and figured I guess I’ll try it out. When I first got it, I couldn’t get off it. The battery on my phone was dying every day. It’s addictive. It’s fun, though. LoMo is entertaining, with the stuff he comes up with.”

Morrison has traded barbs over Twitter with Washington Nationals right-hander Collin Balester, but it’s nothing that could spark a new round of beanballs between the teams. In fact, they don’t even talk baseball.

“It’s about Call of Duty,” Morrison explained, referring to the popular video game. “He plays PS3. I play Xbox. I can talk all the trash I want, and I’ll never play him. I’m not very good. He’d probably kick my (butt).”

The ironic part: Morrison and Balester haven’t met, on the field or otherwise.

“I’m sure when I see him, it’ll be, ‘Hey man, what’s up? We know each other already.’”

On average, Morrison sends out more than 10 tweets per day. In other words, when he’s not eating, sleeping, or playing baseball, he’s probably tweeting.

"I’ve got to lead the league in something,” he quipped. “It’s not going to be home runs. It might as well be tweets.”

Many of Morrison’s tweets are in response to fan questions or comments. He’s frequently told to stop swinging at the first pitch in his at-bats. But his favorite exchange came in response to someone who asked how he prepares to face Phillies ace Roy Halladay.

“I just said, ‘Pray,’” Morrison recalled. “The Philly fans loved it. They’ve been following me ever since.”

Morrison is truly part of baseball’s new generation, a superbly skilled player who has humanized himself in a sport where stars can seem so wealthy and distant. He is about to begin his first full season in the big leagues. For that, he is as excited as you would expect him to be.

And yet …

“It’s different. I’ll never get to call him again,” he said, referring to his dad. “We’d always go over (the games). ‘What pitches did you hit? What were you thinking on this?’ There’s none of that. If I do something good, I can’t call him anymore. I hope he’s still watching. I feel like he has to be. It makes me play inspired still. It’s humbling.”

There will be lonely moments, when he’s on the bus headed back to the team hotel after a night game on the West Coast. But he has his mother. He has his teammates. And he has thousands of distant friends who care about what he has to say.