Parker Morin back in big league camp with Kansas City Royals
It’s been a busy offseason for catcher Parker Morin, a Park City High School graduate and member of the Kansas City Royals’ farm system. When he wasn’t in Park City coaching youth players at The Turf, he was travelling across Asia with Team USA baseball.
Morin was selected to compete at the Premier 12 tournament in Taiwan and Tokyo, Japan, in late 2015, where he was part of the American squad that finished in second place, falling to South Korea in the finals. After spending most of his season on the Royals’ Double-A squad, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, over the summer, Morin said he jumped at the chance to continue playing through the fall and winter.
"That was unbelievable, being able to experience baseball in a different country," he said. "We went to Taiwan for the first pool-play rounds and the quarterfinals. We went to Tokyo from there and ended up playing Mexico [in the semifinals]. We beat Mexico and went to the finals, where we lost against South Korea."
Morin said he had a great time representing the United States and playing against tough international competition.
"Playing for your country is an opportunity I felt I couldn’t pass up," he said. "I won’t forget it for the rest of my life."
Baseball and softball aren’t a part of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but Morin said the Premier 12 tournament is in place to help determine Olympic teams if the sports return in 2020.
Now that he’s back in the U.S., Morin recently reported to the Royals’ facilities in Arizona, where spring training is officially underway. Morin said being in the big league camp with the 2015 World Series champions has been a lot of fun so far.
"The atmosphere has been pretty cool," he said. "It’s pretty exciting to see what they did last year. They’re looking forward to proving themselves again this year.
"We’ve got a whole new facility, too, so guys were excited to see that. That’s been pretty neat."
Those who watched the Royals in the World Series last year saw a squad that loved to have fun, but also knew when it was time to be serious. Morin said he’s learning a lot about that style of play.
"It’s a relaxed mentality, but they work hard," he said. "That’s been a big thing for me to see, too. You don’t always have to be so serious. You have to have fun with it."
After missing the first two months of last season due to injury, Morin posted a career-best .309 batting average in 191 plate appearances with Northwest Arkansas. He said he continued to work heavily on hitting during the offseason and hopes for another strong year at the plate.
"I had a good year once I got healthy," he said. "This offseason, I did a lot of the same stuff to try to maintain and improve in those areas I need to work on. I’m focusing on hitting good, hard line drives."
Getting to experience last year’s spring training with the Major League squad greatly helped Morin. He’s expecting more of the same this year as he helps Kansas City’s pitchers from all levels — low minors to the majors — prepare for the 2016 season.
"Being a catcher, that’s your job — to help them," he said. "It’s about knowing what they’re wanting to do in certain situations and knowing every guy who’s throwing."
When the Royals break camp and head back to Missouri, Morin probably won’t be with them. But, he said, he hopes to impress enough coaches that he can take the next step in his career.
"Every year, I’ve said I’d like to jump up a level," he said. "After repeating Double A last year, my goal this year is to make that jump from Double A to Triple A. I’d like to break [camp] with the Triple-A squad."
The important thing for Morin, though, is to stay healthy all year so he can do the work he needs to do to continue improving.
"It’s pretty tough mentally when [an injury] first happens," he said. "There’s a lot of unknown and things you can’t control. Once you do get back on the field, though, you never want to miss time again."
The Royals kick off their spring training schedule on Wednesday, March 2, against the Texas Rangers. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. MST.
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