He hasn't lived in Northern California since the '80s, but throughout his life Stacy Morgan has carried the lessons he learned while growing up playing sports in Del Norte.
After a brief foray into professional baseball, the 1978 Del Norte graduate spent 22 years as a high school baseball coach. He spent 21 of those seasons at Grants Pass before stepping down in 2008.
Last Saturday, Morgan was honored by the Oregon High School Baseball Coaches Association, an organization that he was president of from 2001 to 2005, when he was inducted into the OHSBCA Hall of Fame.
For Morgan, his induction was just icing on the cake of what was a fulfilling coaching career that ended with 342 career victories, including a 324-219 record at Grants Pass.
"I really look up to the guys that are in it already," Morgan said. "Some of them are people that my teams competed against. It is really more about the guys that I coached with at Grants Pass and the relationships that I have built with the kids that I have coached."
Morgan was humbled to learn of the honor and didn't quite know how to break the news to friends and family.
"It is kind of hard to talk about yourself," Morgan said. "It is kind of like putting together a surprise birthday party for yourself and asking somebody to come. How do you do that?"
Growing up with sports
As a child in Northern California all the way up through high school, Morgan always had a passion for sports.
"If it hadn't been for sports, I would have been in trouble," he said. "Being an athlete in a small town, we all had to play.
"My dad told me, 'If (sports) is something you want to do, learn something.' So I started picking (coaches') brains at an early age."
Morgan gives a lot of the credit for his success through the years to those early mentors.
"There are a few men that I
really looked up too - guys that have molded who I am.," Morgan said. "Jim Costello was my football coach at Del Norte and some of the things that he instilled in me when I was in high school, I still do today.
"Dale Thomas (now in the California High School Coaches Hall of Fame) was our basketball coach. He has a tremendous influence in my life about hard work and work ethic. Being a man and being your own man was one of the things that coach Thomas always told us, 'You have to be your own guy.' I have tried to be my own guy because of him.
"Then Steve Shellabarger was my first varsity baseball coach at Del Norte. He also coached football. He was a neighbor and just a really good friend. Those three guys, along with my college coaches, had a tremendous influence on me."
In four years playing for the Warriors, Morgan developed into a fundamentally sound player who coaches were able to count on in difficult situations.
"His dependability stands out without a doubt," Costello said of his former quarterback. "He would always carry his handoffs out, he would run his fakes out so the running back wouldn't get stood up, he hung in the pocket until his receivers got open, he never took a dive and his passing percentage was high. He wasn't the fastest kid on the team, but he worked as hard as anybody and it worked for him. He had good success."
Yankees come calling
After starring in football, basketball and baseball for the Warriors, Morgan was a three-sports athlete at the College of the Redwoods for two years. He went on to pitch for the Washington State University baseball team as a junior and senior.
In 1982, the Yankees selected Morgan in the Major League Amateur Draft. For the next four years Morgan bounced around the minor leagues, reaching as high as Triple A.
After putting his playing career behind him, Morgan became a coach for Rogue River High School in 1986. The following year, he moved to Grants Pass High School and coached the Cavemen for the next 21 years.
Joy beyond wins
The Grants Pass baseball team enjoyed much success during Morgan's tenure as the head coach. For Morgan, the 324 wins he collected mean relatively little, however.
"Fostering relationships has always been the most important part," Morgan said. "Wins and losses are going to go away, but the relationships stay forever. My goal the whole time was to make it a really good experience for the kids when they played. Hopefully I have done that. I know I have created relationships with some of my coaches and players that go way outside of the athletic fields. That is pretty important to me."
One of the most rewarding coaching experiences for Morgan was the chance to coach his son Zach and his nephews Nolan and Page. Morgan's final season as the head baseball coach was Zach's senior year.
"I was very fortunate to be able to coach my own son and my two nephews," Morgan said. "I think that was the most gratifying thing. To watch those three kids grow up and be men. To be able to be a part of their lives.
"My favorite part was putting them into situations where they not only had to compete, but make decisions for themselves based on the preparation that we did with them. Watching them be successful and knowing that you were a part of that was way more gratifying than just about anything else that I have done."
Although Morgan no longer coaches baseball, he remains active at Grants Pass High School. He is the dean of students, and has helped coach football and basketball since 1988. He is still the freshman football coach and assistant varsity basketball coach.
Reach Michael Zogg at firstname.lastname@example.org.