By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Chris Joseph
By Chris Joseph
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
Miami Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison spends the morning of Valentine's Day 2012 at the nearly empty Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, the team's spring facility. He hits balls in a cage, sweats on a stationary bike, and works on stretching and strengthening his right knee. Morrison — who has been called stubborn, juvenile, and impatient but never lazy — underwent minor surgery on the knee in December, the result of a 2011 baseball season spent diving and slamming into outfield walls.
But on Twitter, the 24-year-old — or at least his virtual ID, @LoMoMarlins — is looking for love. "After much deliberation," he thumb-pecks to almost 100,000 followers, "I've added motor boating @sofiavergara to my bucket list."
Sofia Vergara, for the woefully unacquainted, is a zeppelin-breasted Colombian actress from the TV show Modern Family. Motorboating, according to Urban Dictionary, is "the placement of one's face, specifically the mouth, into the area between a well-endowed woman's breasts, followed by a rapid shaking of the face in a side-to-side motion accompanied by yelling."
Later he ruminates, "There are 3 certainties in life; Death, Taxes & I will trim my pubes on Feb 13th of every year."
He also announces that whichever of his female followers makes the best argument for being his Valentine will "get a signed ball from me (à la Derek Jeter)" — a reference to the report that the New York Yankees shortstop uses autographed memorabilia to bid au revoir to his one-night stands.
Then he reposts a photo of one of his female followers making out with another chick.
Over lunch after the morning workout, the muscular former Army brat complains about the coaches and teammates who loudly order him to put his phone away at the ballpark. "I've been here since 7:30 a.m. while you were still sleeping, bro," he tells these hypothetical foes. "I can tweet on the training table while I'm getting my knee massaged. So what? Want me to focus on getting my knee massaged?"
Last season, he paid a heavy price for his seemingly genetic inability to censor himself. A summerlong sports-section soap opera saw him criticize team owner Jeffrey Loria, dress down star shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the locker room, and poke fun at team President David Samson on Twitter. For those crimes against the regime, Morrison was demoted to the minors for ten days.
"I'll never forget it, but I'm over it," he says bitterly of the demotion. "You don't do something so drastic and want somebody to forget about it."
This week, the perennially skinflint and mostly anonymous Marlins officially move from a dingy, converted football stadium in Miami Gardens to their new, retractable-domed home in Little Havana. They play the world champion St. Louis Cardinals at 7:05 p.m. April 4.
The new Miami Marlins spent $191 million on some of the most expensive and loony personnel in the majors. Joining the rotation: human frowny face Carlos Zambrano, a pitcher arguably better-known for hurling fists and water coolers than baseballs. Poached from the ruins of the New York Mets: stealthy shortstop Jose Reyes, setting the stage for a clash with hometown all-star Hanley Ramirez.
To lead them? The totally unfiltered and usually nonsensical former White Sox manager, Ozzie Guillen, who once famously called a Chicago reporter a "faggot." Guillen has an active Twitter page of his own. As Logan tweeted: "I really hope Ozzies on-field instructions r easier 2 understand than his tweets. I literally have no idea what this dude is talking about."
To ensure the Marlins will be the Jersey Shore of our national pastime, the team has given complete access to camera crews for Showtime's reality series The Franchise.
For his part, Morrison is hoping Zambrano tosses around Gatorade coolers all summer. When it's remarked that the pitcher could be in the headlines every day, he shoots back, "Good. That way I won't be. I'm not an attention whore."
Morrison's iPhone rarely stops humming on the table in front of him as he downs a citrus chicken bowl at Burrito Bros., the surfer joint in Jupiter where he eats with his BFF Petey — Marlins backup outfielder Bryan Petersen — almost every day during spring training.
The roomies live in a rented condo a few minutes away. They carpool everywhere in Petey's Range Rover or Logan's late-model Toyota pickup. They spend the afternoons making goofy YouTube videos. You might have seen a still of them drinking red wine together in a bubble bath. At night, Petey reads Howard Zinn, blogs about sustainable eating, and edits film. Morrison tweets.
He is in a constant conversation with his Twitter army, having broadcast, at last count, 10,800 messages to 96,022 followers. Morrison might not yet be one of the league's elite ballplayers, but when it comes to Twitter stats, he's Babe Ruth. For example, two-time Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay — sample tweet: "Happy Earth Day and remember to do your part and help the environment" — has only 8,000 followers. Even superstar Yankee Alex Rodriguez has just 48,000. Morrison's numbers are still dwarfed by sports' reigning king of acting a fool on Twitter, Chad Ochocinco, who has more than 3 million followers.
Morrison has broadcast photos of himself in a full-body penis suit. For another Twitpic, he donned a female lifeguard costume complete with a thicket of pubic hair sprouting from the crotch. "I'm a 24-year-old living the dream," Morrison says to the critics who would have him restrain his tweets. "If you don't like it, there's no rule that says you have to follow me."
Morrison adopted the 140-characters-or-fewer social networking service when he was a minor leaguer in 2008 at the advice of his agent, Fred Wray, who — don't scoff — thought it might help his career.
Sometimes the conversation gets deep, like when Morrison announced his father's death from lung cancer in December 2010: "Shortly after 9pm last night my hero, Thomas Morrison, passed away." And since then, he has urged his tweeps to donate to lung cancer causes, including his own Jupiter charity, LoMo Camp for the Cure.
But usually, the conversation is more like that time Morrison told a follower: "lick my butt hole."
In February, a follower named Andrew Fleming tweeted, "I'm a Cardinals fan, but I'm blowing my tax return to come see you guys open the park. Can I get love for a true baseball fan?" Morrison retweeted the message but changed it so it looked like Fleming wrote, "I'm blowing my tax guy."
As a result, Fleming spent the rest of the afternoon giddily jousting with Twitter users, including Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal. "I thought it was hilarious," Fleming says. "I got faced by a major-league ballplayer. It kind of makes him one of the guys, unlike [Albert] Pujols or somebody who never interacts with the fans."
And before a game last August, Morrison gave away 342 tickets to his Twitter followers. He would do that more often, he says, if it weren't for the taxes and fees that even players have to pay for tickets. "Tell the Marlins to pay me more money," remarks Morrison, who makes the league minimum salary of $414,000, "and I'd be happy to pay for more tickets for fans."
The way Morrison tells it, his Twitter personality is really just an attempt at trying to return baseball to the days of three-time major-league batting champion George Brett, when players hustled like mad on the field and spoke their minds off it. "He made no excuses for who he was," Morrison says of the former Kansas City Royals third baseman. "He didn't care what anybody else thought."
Logan grew up in Kansas City and attended games with his dad, Tom Morrison, in the early '90s, when Kauffman Stadium was a wonderful shithole with a rubber warning track. Brett was nearly 40 years old but still legging out triples. He was old-school and dirty, with a knob of chaw in his cheek. Father and son worshiped him.
Logan's dad was a gruff and hard-nosed Coast Guard gunner who worked as a recruiter during the family's years in Kansas City. At other times during his son's youth, Tom's military work bounced the family from Key West to North Carolina and Virginia.
"Tom always thought that you don't do anything half-ass," Logan's mom, Diane, says. So when his only child announced at age 8 that he wanted to play baseball for a living, Tom — a hulking former University of Kansas tight end whose body creaked with old football injuries — treated it like a blood oath.
The family sculpted a mound in the backyard. Dad stocked up on dusty instructional volumes by authors such as Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn. He'd paint symbols on baseballs in a system designed to get Logan to hit to left. They'd head to baseball fields with 200 balls, and after Logan had hit every one of them, Tom would chart the landing spots. If about 70 percent of the balls weren't in left, he'd make Logan start over. And punishment for failing at a task was running laps.
Logan missed school dances and trips to Disney World. "You don't want to train?" Tom would bark. "Fine, go work for a living."
When the boy was 12, Tom took him to work out at the instructional camp of former Royals third baseman Kevin Seitzer. The kid was gawky, his dad was cartoonishly overbearing, and Seitzer was in love. He called Royals General Manager Allard Baird. "All the years that I've known you," the former big-leaguer demanded, "how many times have I told you about a kid?"
The answer, of course, was zero. "He was raw," Seitzer says of Logan, "but it was all there."
For 65 bucks a pop, Logan took weekly half-hour sessions with Seitzer. Then father and son crisscrossed the country entering Logan in tournaments, their Ford Excursion stuffed with baseball equipment. "That was the baseball-mobile," Logan says. "We still have it. There's about 265,000 miles on it."
Tom and Diane couldn't really afford the car, equipment, and classes. But Diane, an ultrasound technologist, worked overtime at the hospital, and Tom played an elaborate game of credit card monte.
When Logan was 16 and an elite hired gun on the travel ball circuit, Tom finagled a transfer to New Orleans so Logan could play high school ball in the vicinity of more baseball scouts. Logan wasn't happy to once again leave his friends. But it might come as a surprise to Marlins fans that he was no good at rebelling. The best he could do was get caught with alcohol at a Kenny Chesney concert in Mississippi.
After going All-State and batting .486 his senior year, Logan was drafted in the 22nd round by the Marlins in 2005. Because his parents were worried that the 17-year-old couldn't handle life on his own, he deferred to spend a year at Maple Woods Community College in Missouri, where he lived with his grandmother.
Even as a pro ballplayer scaling the minors, he never cut the umbilical cord. Because his parents had made sure he invested his $225,000 signing bonus, he often called to ask for financial help with his car insurance and wardrobe. When he made it to the Marlins' Triple-A team, the New Orleans Zephyrs, in 2010, Logan and teammate Scott Cousins lived at the Morrison home. Tom's bobbing fedora was a ubiquitous sight in the stands, and he would tail the team bus on road trips. If Logan went four-for-five, Tom would be in the clubhouse after the game, demanding answers about that fifth at-bat: Hey, why'd you swing at that slider in the dirt?
In April of that year, Tom — who had never smoked — was diagnosed with lung cancer. Logan happened to be at home with an injured shoulder, so he was in the oncologist's office when his dad got the news. Tom blurted, "Am I going to be around long enough to see my son get his first big-league hit?"
Logan wasn't terribly worried. He's too mean to die, he thought. That July, Tom watched from a computer as Logan wore a Marlins jersey and smacked a single to left at the San Francisco Giants' AT&T Park. A month later, haggard and peeling from radiation, he took a 30-hour train trip to New York to watch his big-league son play in person, against the Mets.
Tom couldn't make it to the next baseball season. He died that December. Since then, Logan has channeled his dad. If a beat reporter asks him about a teammate he thinks is loafing, he'll tell it straight with no sugar. "I'm definitely my dad's son," Logan says. "I'm not going to change who I am."
"He was angry," Diane Morrison says of her son. "Here's this man who spent all of your life working with you to achieve this goal, and he's not there. Logan still misses his dad. He's still having issues. It's only been a little over a year. You don't get over something like that."
The next baseball season, Morrison introduced a Coast Guard salute into his home-run trot as a tribute to his dad. And he slammed seven of them in 2011's first two months while batting .320. But it didn't seem right to check into a Westin or a Hyatt after a road game and not immediately call his dad to dissect at-bats. "It all felt a little bit more empty," Morrison says.
Then came the clash with Loria, who is infamous for his meddling. Late in the 2006 season, Loria spent a game mocking an umpire from the stands until Manager Joe Girardi asked him to stop. Loria, who was reportedly furious at Girardi's gall, fired the skipper as soon as the season ended. Never mind that Girardi was named manager of the year six weeks later and went on to helm the Yankees to a championship in 2009.
So it was déjà vu in June of last year when Loria ordered the firing of popular hitting coach John Mallee, who had nine years in the organization. The move sparked turmoil in the locker room, not to mention an 11-game losing streak soon thereafter. "Not only LoMo but other players thought they were making a mistake," says Edwin Rodriguez, who was then manager.
Morrison was the only one to publicly criticize ownership for the firing. "They felt Mallee had to go," he remarked to beat writers. "I don't feel that way." When the Marlins' president of baseball operations, Larry Beinfest, advised Morrison to end the public criticism, the outfielder told reporters about that too.
Rodriguez, whom Loria had circumvented in the Mallee firing, felt a storm brewing. "I was trying to tell him," Rodriguez says of Morrison, "that you can be honest, but sometimes you don't have to express your opinion."
But Rodriguez himself resigned soon afterward, replaced by octogenarian interim manager Jack McKeon, who took to calling Morrison "Twitter."
"As long as he's not doing Twitter at the ballpark, that's the only thing I was concerned about," says McKeon, who doesn't think much of social networking. "I'm not about to let the whole world know what my business is."
Morrison became the mama sow for reporters on deadline. "Some of the guys followed him around to milk him for salacious quotes," Miami Herald sportswriter Clark Spencer says. Morrison didn't disappoint. Last June, word leaked that he had berated Hanley Ramirez for chronic tardiness. When reporters then asked him if Ramirez was a team leader, he took what was termed a "not-so-subtle jab" at the injured superstar, responding, "It's 162 games. It's not a 100-game season."
Morrison says he was just stating the facts: "He was our best player last year, and he was hurt."
"They butted heads one time behind closed doors, and the beat reporters made it into a larger issue," says Morrison's agent, Fred Wray. "It's like a husband and wife. If you get in one argument, that doesn't mean you're going to get a divorce."
Then came the ghastly Twitter-versy. In August, Morrison took a silly jab at the team president by posting a photo of a grinning, slightly dorky fellow with the caption, "Is this David Samson? Yes or no? Vote now."
Samson had already gone on record as considering Morrison's racy tweets to be "scary." Three days after he posted the photo, Morrison was demoted to the minors. "He needs to concentrate on all aspects of being a major-leaguer and work his way back," Beinfest declared.
In September, Morrison filed a grievance against the Marlins, a ballsy move for a young player. "It was embarrassing," he says. "I just felt wronged." (The grievance has yet to be resolved.)
Morrison is presumably back in the majors. This season, Morrison vows, he'll stonewall the beat reporters who made a living at his locker. His new strategy: "Short, simple answers," he says. "If they want to talk about other players, go ask them, because I'm not going to lie to you. It's hard to get across that you respect every player but that you fear no one."
He's still a kid. Last Christmas, he begged his mom for a Tumi suitcase to bring on road trips. His agent, Fred Wray, monitors his tweets. There will be no ribbing of the Marlins president this season. "We don't want it to be an issue," Wray says. "Morrison, rightly or wrongly, provided the spice last year. He's not going to provide it this year."
Having spent the day bouncing around hills on a golf cart and swigging domestic beer, Morrison flops onto a leather couch. Two women in tight T-shirts and short skirts, who could probably be classified as cougars, laugh madly at him for refusing to nosh on a golf club buffet because the food isn't organic while at the same time drinking Miller Lite.
Morrison appeals to a burly Marlins staffer. "They're laughing at me, Big John! Kick them out!" Then he turns to the ladies. "If I told him to kick you out, he'd kick you out," he says earnestly. He rears back on the couch, clutching a beer in one hand and making a headbanger symbol with the other, and screeches, "Because the guy that pays me pays him! Just say it!"
Morrison and his Miami Marlins teammates are at the Miccosukee Golf & Country Club before this week's opening-day battle royal with the Cardinals. Baseball players in golf shirts and handlebar mustaches are wandering around sunburned and drunk.
It has been a very Logan Morrison spring. He's battled his postsurgical knee, which has swelled uncomfortably. He's costarred with Bryan Petersen in The Petey & LoMo Show, in which they formed a two-man moped gang, toilet-papered a condo where three teammates lived, and caught Bieber fever. And he's been snared in a minicontroversy: The relatives of late Marlins president Carl Barger are pissed that Morrison has been given the No. 5 jersey — George Brett's old number — which was previously retired in Barger's honor.
Beat reporters have been lurking around the golf club, dying to ask him about the jersey flap, he says. If they had, this would have been his response: "Fuck off. I'm over your shit. I'm over it!" he booms from the couch. "You will not twist these words."
Then the conversation turns to The Franchise. Showtime cameras have already begun following the Miami Marlins circus — including Ozzie Guillen, who has thus far lived up to billing by getting ejected from one of the spring's first exhibition games — and the program will debut midseason. Speculation is rampant about what sort of antics Morrison might have up his sleeve. "There's going to be some crazy shit, don't get me wrong," Morrison says. "I don't know what I'm going to do."
Wearing golf shorts, he reclines and spreads his legs in sultry fashion. "It's not like I'm going to be like, 'Hey, let's do a naked camera interview right now. I'm just going to have the shades on — is that cool?' "
Then he gets a potentially hazardous question. Call it spring training for Morrison's new regimen of thwarting reporters by using clichés.
Just how in hell will thin-skinned Jeffrey Loria and contemptuous David Samson handle this roster full of crazy? "I don't really know," says Morrison, struggling to provide a safe answer. "Is there a clear-cut plan for our team? No, there's not, but I think that's how he wants it. Other than the clear-clut plan — the clear... cut —"
As he trips over the phrase, a fan asks him to talk to his 12-year-old son on his cell phone. Guillen stops to give him a fist bump. Heath Bell, the Marlins' new closer and another joker, strolls by in a green argyle golf getup.
Five minutes later, Morrison has been sobered by the attention. Before he jumps up from the couch to join his new teammates in the parking lot, he enunciates, "The only plan that I know [Loria] has is for us to win a World Series. Other than that, I'm not sure, but I don't care."