The phone call came in at past 10 p.m., startling Greg Morin at his home in the Kansas City suburbs. It was late on April 26, and his son was calling from Reno, Nev., where the Class AAA Salt Lake Bees were playing a series against the Reno Aces.
Almost immediately, Greg thought something was wrong. His son sounded stressed. Was he injured?
Mike Morin quickly let him know it was something quite different.
“I just got called up to the big leagues,” Morin said.
Morin, a 2009 graduate of Shawnee Mission South, was on his way to Yankee Stadium, where he would join the Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen.
More than five months later, Mike Morin, a right-handed reliever, was back in Kansas City on Sunday, returning to his hometown for Game 3 of the American League Division Series. Greg Morin and the rest of the family were back at Kauffman Stadium, too, after spending Thursday and Friday in Anaheim as the Royals took a two games to none lead.
“The starts aligned, so to speak,” Greg Morin said this week. “It’s been a fun ride.”
Perhaps until Sunday.
After not pitching in the series’ first two games, Morin came on in relief in the third inning and yielded two runs and three hits while recording three outs. One of those hits was a thunderous homer to right by Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Morin left with the Angels trailing 7-2.
The night ended storybook rookie season for Morin, who was believed to be the first graduate of a Shawnee Mission high school to play in the big leagues in at least three decades. He made his debut with a scoreless inning against the Cleveland Indians on April 30. He finished the season with a 2.90 ERA in 60 appearances, bolstering the Los Angeles bullpen as the Angels finished 98-64, capturing the AL West title.
But even before Sunday, Morin’s story has always been one that hinged on the improbable. Five years ago, Morin was a little recruited pitcher from the Sunflower League, likely headed to Iowa Western Community College after a strong senior season. But after receiving an invitation from former Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer to play in the MINK League, a summer circuit reserved for college players, Morin caught the eye of coaches from North Carolina.
He headed for Chapel Hill, where he would set the ACC’s single-season saves record. He was drafted by the Angels in the 13th round of the 2012 draft. Earlier this season, he picked up a victory at Kauffman Stadium, throwing two innings in a 6-2 victory over the Angels on June 28.
“He’s always had that confidence,” Greg said. “The Angels gave him some opportunities.”
Then came last Tuesday. Morin knew the Angels would play host in the ALDS opener. But he wanted to keep close eye on the AL Wild Card Round. If the Royals could edge the A’s, he would be heading home for at least one playoff game.
When the Royals won in 12 innings, his social media feeds blew up with old friends from Overland Park. It was almost surreal, he said, earlier in the week. By Sunday night, a different reality had set in.
“Just watching them play in a playoff game,” Morin said earlier this week, “it’s a big step for their organization.”
To reach Rustin Dodd, call 816-234-4937 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @rustindodd.