More Morgalis: Ace To Return for 2005

Mike Morgalis isn’t here, and the Harvard baseball team is thrilled about it.

After walking in commencement exercises in June, Morgalis—the squad’s No. 2 pitcher last season—was supposed to return to campus to finish up his degree requirements this semester.

But after a summer spent interning with J.P. Morgan in New York, Morgalis decided he was in no rush to enter the real world. Instead, he decided to put off his final semester until the spring, when he will again suit up for the Crimson.

“About midway through the six week internship I realized I was in no hurry to work anytime soon,” Morgalis said. “So I thought, ‘Why not see if I have eligibility left?’”

Morgalis played two seasons for Harvard after transferring from Notre Dame in summer 2002, and since he had played just one season and taken a redshirt year with the Fighting Irish, he had used only three years of athletic eligibility. A quick conference with Harvard’s director of compliance Nathan Fry confirmed that Morgalis could easily return.

Morgalis informed the entire team via e-mail in early August, once the NCAA had given its cursory approval—much to the delight of his teammates.

“I still haven’t seen him,” said catcher Schuyler Mann, the team’s captain. “But as soon as I do, I’m going to give him a big hug, because I’m pretty excited about it.”

Morgalis, as well as Harvard coach Joe Walsh, started thinking about his possible return during the Ivy stretch run last May. After the Crimson was eliminated from playoff contention on the final Sunday of the season in heartbreaking fashion, Morgalis and Walsh sat down to discuss the possibility.

“It was one of those things that was in the back of my mind,” Walsh said last week. “But it’s not something you bring up during the season with a player, kind of like contract negotiations.”

Around the same time, Morgalis and teammate Trey Hendricks ’04 both pitched live batting practice to then-Red Sox star Nomar Garciaparra at Fenway Park during his rehab stint. Garciaparra was impressed with Morgalis, and told him so.

“I will say, and I don’t know if someone asked him to, but Nomar sat me down for about 15 minutes that last day I threw to him,” Morgalis said. “He told me that I wasn’t that bad, and that there was no reason I shouldn’t give it a chance. And worst-case scenario, I get to play baseball another year.”

Though Morgalis didn’t make his final decision until July—when he fully appreciated the monotony of office life—his return was not a complete surprise to his teammates, some of whom were betting on whether or not he would be back. Still, all of them were excited at the news.

“He had been talking about it [at the end of last year],” Mann said. “But I didn’t want to talk about it or push him, because there are just so many questions and things that can come up.”

Morgalis is a two-year weekend starter for the Crimson, and will easily be the squad’s most experienced pitcher. In five Ivy starts last season, Morgalis went 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA, including a complete game, three-hit shutout of Cornell.

“He’s going to be the guy on the staff, when he returns, that’s going to be by far the guy with the most experience,” Mann said. “So he’s going to be the guy leading by example on the pitching staff.”

Morgalis is one of two Crimson players who spent the summer weighing their options before deciding to return to the team. Junior shortstop Zak Farkes seriously considered signing with the Boston Red Sox after the team selected him in the 39th round last June, but elected to return to school instead.

With both players back, Harvard returns all but two of its starting position players and three of four pitchers from last year’s weekend rotation. Nevertheless, with the health of junior starting pitcher Matt Brunnig still in question and reigning Ivy Pitcher of the Year Hendricks lost to graduation, Morgalis provides a crucial boost to the staff.

In two years with the Crimson, Morgalis has never won an Ivy title, one reason Walsh said motivated him to return.

The 2004 team finished the season 21-18-1 with a 14-8 Ivy mark, losing the Red Rolfe division on the final weekend of play to Dartmouth. In 2003, Harvard won the Red Rolfe division, but fell to Princeton two games to one in the Ivy Championship Series.

“Not having won here for a couple years and coming close both times [probably had a big impact on his decision],” Walsh said. “I’ll tell you, you can do a lot of things in your lifetime, but you can’t always play for a championship.”

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

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