CROOKSTON, Minn. - When you ponder on the idea of sports in New Zealand, immediately the focus goes to rugby. The New Zealand National Team has been a power in the world of rugby for ages. One sport that doesn’t always come up is baseball, and it was no different in the family of University of Minnesota Crookston senior Brad Morris, a native of Auckland, New Zealand. Sports were an integral part of the foundation of his family. He has three cousins that play for the New Zealand National Rugby Union squad. Morris had another relative on his dad’s side who competed in the shot put in the Olympics. Athletics have always been important, but it has always focused on the work ethic instilled in his family.
“We are very sporty, like to be active,” Morris stated. “We do have some good genes that way. The big thing that separates us, I say humbly, is our work ethic. We always work hard at what we do, whether that is a business, or sport, we always put in the time. That has been the thing that has helped the family separate themselves.”
Morris grew up playing a variety of sports in New Zealand, including Rugby, throwing shot put, javelin, discus, soccer, cricket, and rugby. A notable absence is baseball. It wasn’t very prevalent in his country, and it wouldn’t come into Morris’ purview later.
“I never did play baseball growing up,” Morris remarked. “I always watched it on TV and it looked pretty cool. We didn’t really play the game growing up. I got to the point, I was 18, I had a few injuries in sport and wanted to try something new. I was thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I could be a good sportsman one day. I wanted to be a professional, that was my goal. I started researching different things I could do with my ability and baseball came to me. I started looking up different teams online and found a team in southern Minnesota, just a summer ball team. I booked a flight and came to the United States.”
After coming to the United States, Morris ended up pursuing collegiate baseball, first at Riverland Community College in Austin, Minn. He was able to find success at the junior college, which ultimately led to the opportunity at Minnesota Crookston. The factors that set both schools apart for Morris were the small class sizes and intimate environment. He grew up in a rural community in New Zealand, and also loved the fact that he could get the attention necessary from professors.
“The small class sizes really sold me,” Morris stated. “I wasn’t the brightest in the school so I always needed a bit of extra help, and I thought that would definitely help me here. That was the main factor, but the culture within the baseball program was a big part of it. Coach (Steve) Gust is an old-school type of guy. I like the work ethic he has and the culture we are trying to create. I thought it would be a good choice.”
For Morris, it all comes back to his work ethic. It was instilled in him from his family and has been ever important to him on his path in life. Morris believes that if you work hard anything is possible.
“I always believe in myself and my abilities. The sky's the limit as long as you work hard and you have the ability, anything is possible. That is part of my story as well. I want to inspire people to use what they have and work hard. I don’t think anything is impossible. In my family, my mom and dad work very hard at what they do. I have grown up seeing that. I just didn’t know any other way. I am very thankful that my parents worked very hard. We didn’t have a lot, but we had enough to get by. I saw them always working, so it taught me the right way to go about things. My dad is a mechanical engineer. I did an apprenticeship with him. My mom grew up on a dairy farm. She grew up working the farm, working in the orchard, basically any hard work.”
Morris has had a great experience at Minnesota Crookston since arriving prior to the 2019-20 school year. He has already finished up a marketing major and has picked up a finance major on top of it. He has had several professors stand out to him at UMN Crookston, one being Craig Miller.
“Craig Miller has stood out to me, “ Morris stated. “He is very smart when it comes to business and numbers. We have had extra meetings. I am always in his office picking his brain on the business side of things.”
Morris has also had the ability to get involved with the International Programs at UMN Crookston, which included making a New Zealand-style meal. ““We cooked a steak pie, vegetables, and pavlova, which is kind of like a New Zealand-style meringue.”
While his studies remain ever-important, Morris is currently focused on a pursuit of professional baseball after he graduates from Minnesota Crookston, but he knows that with a UMN degree he can accomplish great things in the business world.
“I am focused on trying to make professional baseball,” Morris remarked. “That is my goal. Obviously, if that doesn’t happen, I would like to go into the real estate business. I want to start my own LLC where we buy and sell real estate, commercial, residential, you name it. I want to use everything I have learned here at UMN Crookston and apply it to starting my own business.”
Morris is now in season for the Golden Eagle baseball team. He is excited to be back on the field after missing the 2021 campaign due to injury. He loved seeing the Golden Eagles have a successful year in which they were able to compete for the NSIC Championship but has been itching to get back on the field. He has been able to do just that in 2021, as he has appeared in nine games in center field, batting .324 on the year.
“I am so excited,” Morris said of getting back out of the field. “It was a long year of working out. I didn’t waste any time but it is definitely tough to sit on the sidelines and see the guys do well. It was great to see the guys have a great season last year. I have spent a lot of time weightlifting and mentally preparing so I would be ready for this season. I have been chomping at the bit to get after it again.”
Morris’ focus, like with everything in his life, is on setting the example with his work ethic. “What we have been doing this year at UMN Crookston is continually getting better. It is going to be different this year with a lot of newer guys. It has definitely helped me see things from a different perspective. It built some patience in me, which is good. I am realizing that baseball isn’t everything, but it is important. Having that perspective has been helpful. I have been trying to apply that and show the other guys too. I want to make the most of it because it is not here forever. I want to bring that work ethic each and every day and enjoy it. With that attitude, good things are going to happen on the field.”
Morris has gone on a different sports path than the rest of his family, but at the end of the day, it all focuses on doing things the right way and putting in the work each and every day in the classroom, on the baseball field, and in everything he does. With that mindset, he truly will be able to accomplish anything he sets his mind on.