Five weeks after being released from a hospital following a near-death, two-week bout with pneumonia, University of Miami baseball coach Jim Morris is definitely feeling better these days.
How can you tell? The 63-year-old skipper spent all of last week doing what he always does at this time of year — agonizing over Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline for Major League Baseball draft picks to sign with their pro teams.
“We’ve got six guys, counting two guys on our team, we’re waiting on,” Morris said Tuesday before rattling off the list of names.
“You just don’t know. I can give them a scholarship and tell them I love them. But the pro people can give them a scholarship plan, tell them they love ’em and give them a million dollars. I don’t have to tell you which one they’re going to choose.”
The fact Morris is talking shop is a welcome sign for his players, who ended their season — Morris’ 20th as UM coach — last month in Louisville, Ky., in the NCAA tournament unsure if they would ever see their coach again.
“It’s definitely good to see him,” said freshman All-American third baseman David Thompson, who, like many of his teammates, didn’t know how ill Morris actually was until weeks later.
“Each time I’ve seen him since he’s been back, he seemed to be a lot better with a lot more energy. He got real sick there. It’s nice to see him back at work.”
Morris was so stricken by the illness that he said he doesn’t remember anything about how the Hurricanes’ season ended — even though he spoke on the phone to his players and assistants and supposedly watched them play in the NCAA regional from his hospital bed on an iPad.
“You can see how stupid I was — I almost died in the hospital,” said Morris, who added that he spent 13 days inside Duke University Hospital in Durham, N.C., before his release June 6.
“It was the medication, I guess. I got something — a bacteria — in my bloodstream, too. It was the combination of the two, that and pneumonia. It knocked me down in the dirt.”
Source of it all
Morris said it all started about a month before the team took off for the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Durham. A little cough he kept ignoring grew to severe chest pains as the team bus was about 10 minutes away from the stadium before UM’s tournament finale against Clemson.
“I told [assistants] Gino [DiMare] and JD [Arteaga] to get the guys off the bus. When everybody was off the bus, I told our trainer to call 911,” Morris said. “It was probably dumb because I was having chest pains. But I didn’t want to affect anything on game day at the ACC tournament. I won’t do that again.”
Morris said he doesn’t remember anything from the time he got off the bus that day until about the time he got out of the hospital and made the long drive home from Durham with his wife.
Although Morris feels better, his health remains a concern. He said doctors still don’t want him getting on a plane for another few weeks because of the amount of water in his lungs, and the potential for blood clots in his legs. Morris said he goes in for chest X-rays and to have blood drawn every Wednesday.