Notre Dame Transfer Could Shine for Harvard Baseball

He’s a 6’5, hard-throwing righty with three pitches and enough polish to shine a whole roster’s cleats. He was on a College World Series Team. And come opening day, he may be the Crimson’s No. 1 starter.

He is Mike Morgalis, and if you don’t know his name now, you may be asking for it in the Spring.

“Morgalis is the type of guy that you come to a ballpark and everybody’ll [want to] know his name. They’re going to be saying, ‘Who’s that kid?’” said Harvard coach Joe Walsh.

Frustrated with a lack of playing time, Morgalis transferred from Notre Dame to Harvard this fall. In search of another quality academic instution, Morgalis chose the Crimson over Ivy-rival Brown.

The transfer couldn’t have come at a better time for Harvard.

The Crimson’s top four starting pitchers from 2002 are all gone, three to graduation and the fourth—would-be-junior Marc Hordon—to a season-ending shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw from Harvard to maintain full eligibility.

Ben Crockett, the 2002 Ivy Co-Pitcher of the Year, is now a top prospect n the Colorado Rockies’ farm system.

When the team opens its season March 8, Morgalis will most likely have the unenviable role of filling Crockett’s cleats.

“If the season started tomorrow, I’d give Mike the ball,” Walsh said Tuesday.

It’s a move his teammates would be comfortable with.

“He’s a good—I wouldn’t say replacement for Benny—but he’s a great surprise,” said sophomore catcher Schuyler Mann. “We didn’t think we’d have someone who could fill the role we counted on Benny for.”

Morgalis shrugs off comparisons, but after recording no regular season action for the Fighting Irish last year, he relishes the opportunity to be an integral part of the team.

“To be honest, even to be compared to [Crockett] is a little far-fetched,” Morgalis said. “The whole reason I transferred was because I missed competing. If that means me pitching in the big games, I look forward to that challenge.”

Big-League Opportunity

At the conclusion of his first minor league season, Baseball America predicted that Crockett would be the first Rockie in his draft class to crack into the big leagues.

But ironically, some of Crockett’s former Harvard teammates may take on Nomar Garciaparra before he does.

Sunday’s Boston Globe reported that the Red Sox plan to invite Harvard, Northeastern, UMass and BC to each play spring training exhbition games with the Sox once every four years. This would mean that the four teams would essentially share the spot currently occupied solely by the Eagles, who play the Sox every exhibition season.

No one from the Red Sox administration has contacted Harvard yet.

“[The story in The Globe] was the first I’d heard of it and the last I’ve heard of it,” Walsh said. “That was news to me.”

Unfortunately, it may not be all good news.

The Ivy League tightly regulates the schedules of each of its athletic teams and rarely makes exceptions. Spring sports, in particular, are forbidden from playing games before the first week of March.

Though a game with the Red Sox may seem like a good reason to break the rules, Walsh is skeptical that the Ivy League would allow it.

A similar situation arose in 2001, when the Crimson was invited by the US Olympic Committee to represent the United States in Taiwan. Opponents would have included the Cuban, Korean and Australian National Teams, but because the event was in February, the Ivy League refused to let Harvard go.

This year, the Red Sox are sceduled to play BC tomorrow, Feb. 28.

“There would be a couple of hoops that we’d have to go through,” Walsh said. “The Ivy League says we can’t play before the first weekend of March.”

Still, the idea of playing with major leaguers is enough to make both Walsh and his players light up.

“It would be a lot cooler [than just playing at Fenway Park during the Beanpot],” Mann said. “It would kinda get Harvard baseball out there a little better.”

When the Fighting Irish took on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last Spring, Morgalis struck out 1993 World Series MVP Pat Borders and discovered what a magical experience it can be.

“It was just one of those times when you are living out your boyhood dreams of being at that level,” Morgalis said.

Around The Horn

The Crimson will open its season with six games in three days when it travels to Bradenton, Fla. Mar. 8-10. The schedule doesn’t slow down, as Harvard faces off against perennial powers Miami, Florida International and Florida Atlantic (among other teams) two weeks later during a spring break trip to South Florida....Senior lefty Kenon Ronz, who emerged as a situational reliever down the stretch in 2002 after being plagued by bicep tendinitis, has impressed in fall and spring workouts. According to Walsh, Ronz will receive serious consideration as a weekend starter this season....Harvard’s opening day lineup may include as many as five freshmen, “two or three” in the infield and “a couple” in the outfield, according to Walsh. This doesn’t dim the coach’s hopes. “A lot of coaches like to say that we’ve got a young team, so we’re going to be good in a year or two,” Walsh said. “Uh, Uh. I say it’ll be a game or two.”

—Staff writer Lande A. Spottswood can be reached at spottsw@fas.harvard.edu.