As Morgan or Plush, Brewers CF keeps team loose

Nyjer Morgan understands that his exuberance can be

misunderstood.

The Brewers center fielder is engaging – or enraging – to fans,

likes playing hide-and-seek in the clubhouse with broadcaster Bob

Uecker and holds increasingly bizarre postgame interviews as his

alter ego ”Tony Plush.”

He’s a character and a better-than-expected player for the NL

Central leaders.

”I’m just playing my game, man. I’ve been like this everywhere

I’ve been, but it finally feels good to be embraced and get the

love,” Morgan said. ”The fans are what make it happen.”

The center fielder is batting a team-best .328 and getting

plenty of chances in front of stars Ryan Braun and Prince

Fielder.

Morgan is adamant that when he’s on the field, he’s Tony Plush

and has the confidence of someone who is 5 inches taller, 50 pounds

heavier and a power hitter who’s nothing like his 5-foot-11,

175-pound self.

Off the field, he’s Morgan again.

”I’m not crazy,” he said. ”I just really don’t like the word

crazy. It’s more like having fun. I guess maybe people in the game

of baseball haven’t seen it.”

Morgan, who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, picked up the

moniker when he was 19 or 20 and his group of friends decided they

were a ”Rat Pack.”

Morgan turned into ”Tony Plush.” His best friend became

”Frankie Sleaze.” And what started as a bond between buddies grew

when Morgan became a professional athlete and began to mention it

in the majors.

The 31-year-old Morgan was late into pro baseball, partly

because of his love of hockey. He played 13 years growing up,

including seven games with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey

League. He believes if he’d stuck with that game, he could’ve have

reached the NHL and still gets excited when he thinks about pregame

introductions.

”That first time stepping on the ice, they announce the team

and you’re coming out of the tunnel, it’s one of the best feelings.

You have the lights all off and they have the laser show, it’s the

best,” Morgan said.

Milwaukee traded a minor leaguer to Washington for Morgan at the

end of spring training because of an injury to right fielder Corey

Hart left them needing temporary depth.

Morgan had worn out his welcome again, this time with the

Nationals. Starting his big league career with the Pirates in 2007,

every team he’d played for lost at least 93 games and Morgan didn’t

mind taking little digs at each club on his way out.

In the final weeks last season with Washington, Morgan threw a

ball at a fan in the stands in Philadelphia, twice went out of his

way to run over catchers, squabbled with his manager and started a

brawl with the Marlins that ended with an eight-game

suspension.

Marlins third baseman Wes Helms said at the time that Morgan

didn’t play the game with integrity. Morgan realizes that some of

his actions have played a role in the acrimonious ends with his two

previous franchises, but that it’s not fair to judge him on a few

clips.

”I felt (my career) was getting tarnished just because

basically, even last year, I did the same things, but I was on a

losing ball club. I guess the things I was doing weren’t up to par

being a losing ball club,” Morgan said. ”You get blasted just for

going out there and having fun. I guess you’re supposed to be a

choir boy out there.”

Morgan also strongly disagrees that he’s disrespectful.

”I respect the game. I don’t do anything that says I’m not

playing hard or going out there and not hustling,” Morgan said.

”Even though I do joke around, I’m serious. I come to work every

day, I come prepared mentally and physically ready to go, ready to

win, ready to compete and just leave it all out on the field.”

Moments later, a TV segment begins showing Morgan’s dugout

interviews.

Morgan says in the highlight that he’s focused on his

”Plushdamentals” and ends each one abruptly, yelling into the

microphone ”Ahhhhh, gotta go!” before sprinting back into the

clubhouse.

The Brewers watching can’t stop laughing as the TV analysts

debate whether Morgan’s actions are appropriate.

”Who cares!” reliever LaTroy Hawkins shouts as he walks

by.

That seems to be the shared sentiment.

”My boy Nyjer Morgan might be one of the funniest, most

entertaining players in baseball. Dat boy be havin some fun on the

field,” Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp posted this week on

Twitter.

”He’s entertaining,” Braun said. ”We’ve got to give this guy

a reality show, he needs a camera following him at all times. He’s

unpredictable. It’s awesome.”

He’s been awesome, too, in the lineup.

”He’s fun to watch. Every time you put him up there it seems

like something good’s going to happen,” said Brewers manager Ron

Roenicke, who has helped Morgan tone down the act some without

taking away his personality. ”I knew he was going to be good

defensively. Offensively, I knew he was a scrappy player, but, no,

I didn’t expect him to be doing what he’s doing. ”

And Morgan finally believes he’s found a fit in a loose locker

room with a lot to play for in the final months of the season.

”I leave it all out on the field. I play the game hard. I play

the game intense,” Morgan said. ”Just being that person on the

field, I want people to embrace it and love it.”