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Morrison's special moment highlights season's first weekend

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Shortly after Marlins' rising star Logan Morrison touched home plate on his Opening Day home run against the Mets last Friday, he pointed to his mother, Diane, and a dozen other family members who were there at Sun-Life Stadium for Logan's first Opening Day, which also happened to be his first major league game since the death of his beloved dad.

After he pointed to his mom, he saluted his late father, who was his hero. There wasn't a dry eye in the Morrison contingent. That includes Morrison, who, at 23, is far too young to lose a parent. Thomas Morrison died of lung cancer last December at age 51 and when Logan homered in that 6-2 victory over the Mets, he could think of nothing but his father.

"I think about him every day, and a lot yesterday,'' Morrison said to the Miami Herald. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here. It's something I've always dreamed about, playing Opening Day and him being there to see it.''

The night, a roller coaster of emotions, was perhaps the most memorable moment of an interesting first weekend in baseball. It certainly had to be the most moving.

"I was fighting back tears [during] the National Anthem,'' Morrison told SI.com. "It was a very emotional night. It's going to be an emotional season. I am just going to try to honor him the best way I can.''

He does that just by being such a fine young man. He is a favorite of fans, teammates and owner Jeffrey Loria, who loved it when Morrison told him after attending a bar mitzvah at Loria's request that a small part of him wanted to be Jewish. When Thomas Morrison died, Loria flew 13 Morrison family members up from Louisiana, where he died, to the Morrison homeland in Kansas City for a memorial. Logan called Loria's gesture "awesome.'' Several family members were on their way to say goodbye to Thomas Morrison when he passed away.

Thomas Morrison, a Coast Guard officer and former University of Kansas football player, was an unlucky man. A non-smoker, he was diagnosed last April with Stage IV lung cancer, which spread to his brain. When Tom received the diagnosis, Logan, his only child, was there, and he wept immediately. One of Tom's first questions was whether he might live long enough to see Logan play in the big leagues.

Tom was lucky about that. While the illness wouldn't permit him to fly (or be in warm-weather climates), he had the opportunity to bus to New York to see his only child play shortly after his debut, on Aug. 25, Logan's 23rd birthday. It was a 29-hour ride from Slidell, La., but he made it. And he made it to Milwaukee and to other places that weren't Miami or warm. One trip he couldn't make because of a blood clot. But those that he could make, he did, cheering so enthusiastically sometimes it seemed hard to believe he was dying.

"If he could be there, he was there,'' Logan said. "He wasn't going to let cancer get in the way.''

Under impossible circumstances, Morrison batted .283 for the Marlins in his first year, and more impressively for a rookie, he posted a .390 on-base percentage. The 22nd round draft choice of 2005 who emerged as a top prospect almost immediately was on his way.

Eventually, Tom's cancer took over, and on December 10, Logan revealed the news to the world that his father had died on his popular Twitter page, @LoMoMarlins. "Shortly after 9 p.m. last night my hero Thomas Morrison passed away,'' he tweeted.

Logan Morrison has a remarkable attitude about a terrible lifebreak. He's dealt with a lot for someone so young. On Jan. 17 of this year, it became a double tragedy for the Morrison family when Thomas' younger brother Daniel was struck by a car and died.

"Same church, a month later,'' Logan recalled, sadly. The entire Morrison clan was back at St. Therese Catholic Church in Kansas City.

"I guess when it rains it pours,'' Logan said. "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.''

Life's circumstances have made him one of the strongest 23-year-olds you're ever going to meet.

Here are some more snapshots from the first weekend:

• The Orioles' starting pitching looked superb in winning their first three games, allowing only six hits and one run in 20 innings. It's a small sample size (as are they all at this point), but if I could get one do-over from spring training, it would be my dismissive piece on the Orioles. Perhaps I underestimated pitching coach Mark Connor, second-year catcher Matt Wieters and their young pitching talent. And maybe even their manager, Buck Showalter, who has guided them to a 37-23 record since taking over the team with baseball's worst record last season. I did like Zach Britton, and it was good to see him get the call for the third game after Brian Matusz went down with a back injury. Britton belongs in the bigs now, and good for the Orioles calling him up after initially sending him back to the minors.

• I feel better about my pick of the Rangers for the World Series after noting how their offense was the best I'd seen in spring. It's only one series, but what a series it was. The Rangers slugged .775 against the vaunted Red Sox and hit 10 home runs. Ian Kinsler, who looked superb in spring, and Nelson Cruz became the first set of teammates ever to homer in each of the first three games. One little talked-about sidelight: Kinsler likes to outdo Dustin Pedroia, whose presence at Arizona State University caused Kinsler to transfer to the University of Missouri. The two were not close.

• Ever since the Indians changed the name of their park to Progressive Field, their attendance seems to have regressed. Sad to see them not break 10,000 in the second game of the season, which came against the rival White Sox.

• Funny that Asdrubal Cabrera has participated in all three triple plays by the Indians at Progressive Field, as @MLBBastian noted.

• Phil Hughes' velocity was said by mlb.com to have been between 87 and 91 in his season debut. That's no surprise to @DKnobler of cbssports.com, who noted in spring that scouts were appalled by Hughes' low gun readings. He said at the time that they were mostly between 87-89, exactly right. This is a concern for the Yankees.

• Good to see A.J. Burnett, on the eve of his 2011 debut, come out and admit that one of his problems could be mental. Perhaps it's no coincidence that he pitched a solid game in winning his season debut over the Tigers.

• New Mets manager Terry Collins' surprise move to bat Willie Harris second in two of the first three games paid off. Harris, who hit .183 in 2010, was 4 for 10 through the weekend.

• Matt Kemp seems to be giving his A game, which is quite good. He had a big spring, and he's off to a huge start. Perhaps new Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is good for him.

• Mattingly told me he didn't blame the Dodgers at all for trading his son Preston shortly after he was named manager. I thought maybe they didn't want the appearance of a conflict of interest, but Mattingly had a different take. He said it wasn't working and he appreciated the Dodgers giving his son a fresh start. Unfortunately, Preston, a former first round draft choice, was released by the Indians this weekend.

• The Rays made a good deal to guarantee $12.6 million and four years to righthander Wade Davis, and get three team options thrown in. The one thing a player wants to avoid is team options, and three of them are far too many. Fausto Carmona got one of those deals. Of course, at the moment, Carmona has a 30.00 ERA after giving up 10 earned runs in three innings in his season debut.

• Matt Treanor, a new Royal, hit a walk-off three-run home run to give the Royals a 12-9, 13 inning win and three wins in four games over the Angels. Treanor was acquired because Jason Kendall is still recovering after offseason elbow surgery. Good pickup.

• The Angels' Scott Kazmir continues to worry folks by being hit hard. He isn't close to the same pitcher he used to be. There was talk in Tampa that he succeeded all on natural ability and wasn't the hardest worker around. But perhaps the fears of the scouts just finally caught up; not many little guys last as a star big-league pitcher.

• Tim Lincecum is one little ace who shows no signs of slowing down. Giants GM Brian Sabean told the San Jose Mercury News he wasn't anticipating talking to Lincecum about a multiyear deal during the middle of the year. But he also didn't rule it out. Lincecum is worth whatever they give him.

• The Giants' defense looks weaker than last year, with Miguel Tejada carrying his spring problems into the season, and Aubrey Huff manning right field with the surprise ascension of ballyhooed rookie Brandon Belt. Good for Huff for being willing to go to right field, but he's going to need some work out there after playing mostly first base in spring.

• Barry Zito is no better than a No. 5 starter now (though he is technically the No. 4 man in the Giants' rotation because they don't want to tax Madison Bumgarner's young arm). But he should get credit for his toughness. Within days of suffering enough pain from a car accident on Sunset Boulevard that he had to go to a hospital and receive an MRI, he was on the mound for his scheduled start.

• Matt Garza, who looked bad most of spring, whiffed 12 in his Cubs debut Sunday (while allowing 12 hits and no walks in a weird line).

• Jaime Garcia, who was brutal all spring for St. Louis, pitched the first shutout of the year, 2-0 over the Padres.

• Matt Holliday's absence could impact free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols. David Freese served as Pujols' lineup protection, though Lance Berkman would seem to be the most likely choice.

• St. Louis has a "weird'' defense in the words of one scout. That scout noted that they are great defensively at catcher (Yadier Molina) first base (Pujols) and centerfield (Colby Rasmus), and much less than that in several other spots. Their defense has cost them early.

• It was a surprise to see Red Sox manager Terry Francona drop Carl Crawford all the way down to the No. 7 spot in the batting order for the third game of the year. Francona, a serial defender of his top stars, usually avoids quick demotions like that.

• It was interesting to see Yankees GM Brian Cashman say the Mets' approach to the oft-used reliever Pedro Feliciano was "abusive,'' in that the Yankees already committed $8 million to Feliciano and teams usually avoid those sort of claims. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said he disagreed but said Feliciano's usage played a role in the Mets not offering him a new deal, in effect acknowledging his new bosses wouldn't necessarily disagree with Cashman. Warthen, a serial truth teller, is absolutely right. Sandy Alderson's band ruled out Feliciano due to a major league leading number of appearances -- 266 -- over the past three seasons, during each of which Feliciano pitched in more games than any other hurler in baseball.

• One baseball source said Adrian Gonzalez and the Red Sox have an agreement on the dollar amount of Gonzalez's extension, and while one other source insisted that the Red Sox still wanted to see Gonzalez play several straight games before absolutely finalizing the deal, everyone in baseball sees an agreement being finalized and formalized in coming weeks. Reports in December indicated it would be for $154 million over seven years on top of Gonzalez's $6.3 million 2011 salary, bringing the total to just over $160 million, and it is expected that will be in the ballpark. Boston had to wait until after the season began to avoid Gonzalez's extension affecting their luxury tax obligation, just as they had to a year ago when Josh Beckett was given a $68 million, four-year extension shortly after the 2010 season began. The Yankees are the only team firmly in luxury-tax territory while the Red Sox and Phillies are the only other teams that could be affected. Red Sox owner John Henry has been outspoken about his distaste for Boston's revenue sharing obligation, to the point where he was fined $500,000 for enunciating his displeasure and revealing their exact obligation publicly.

• Bud Selig wouldn't commit to retiring on Dec. 31, 2012, saying, "that is my goal,'' and "those are my thoughts today'' -- two less than definitive statements -- at a recent sports business symposium in Miami sponsored by IMG. People close to Selig, including his wife, Sue, expect him to keep working beyond that date assuming he remains in good health (he turns 77 this summer). Selig also revealed MLB expects revenues to top $7 billion this year. Baseball people also seem confident a new collective bargaining agreement will be reached before there's a work stoppage. The current CBA expires at the end of the season.

• Sources indicate Chuck Greenberg resigned as CEO of the Rangers after club president Nolan Ryan gave the ultimatum to the team's main owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson that either Greenberg had to go or he would. Well, of course, there was no question who would go at that point. Ryan, so revered in Texas he could probably be governor if he wanted, was annoyed at Greenberg's hands-on approach to baseball matters despite being a baseball neophyte (and also about the same outspokenness that irked the Yankees. too). Interestingly, it was only by swaying Ryan to his side did Greenberg win control of the team in the first place. He also promised Ryan a small stake in the team (believed to be 1.5 points) in addition to a salary that is estimated to be between $6 million and $9 million. But their association only lasted eight months at the helm of the Rangers. Through a spokesman, Ryan declined to comment.

• The Padres are hopeful ace Mat Latos won't be out too long with bursitis in his right shoulder. Latos' bigger issue is an immaturity that has alienated much of the Padres clubhouse, one person familiar with their clubhouse environment said.

• Condolences to the family of Lou Gorman, the GM and architect of the 1986 Boston Red Sox, one of the most memorable teams ever for their heroics and ultimately heartbreak. Gorman's Mets and Red Sox teams both drafted Roger Clemens, and Clemens became the biggest star of that '86 team. Gorman was a very gentle and kind man, and he will be missed.

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