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A League of their own

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  • A League of their own

    Twins form a league of their own
    By Blair Anthony Robertson -

    Dominic and Donte Morris are 19-year-old identical twins, which means they not only look the same, they think and act alike, too.

    So when they came up with the idea to start their own baseball league and, with a special exhibition game, pay tribute to the sport's storied and African American heritage, there was immediate agreement.

    Like many bright ideas, theirs sprang from disappointment.

    Eighteen months ago, the brothers tried out and failed to make the baseball team at California State University, Sacramento.

    The verdict meant they would start their college careers without baseball, something they just couldn't envision. Baseball and the Morris twins had always gone together. Like brats and beer. Like a good double play.

    They loved the game too much. They knew they couldn't stop playing.

    The two business majors already were interested in the business of baseball and dreamed of owning a professional franchise someday. They had considered interning with the Sacramento River Cats to learn how it all worked.

    Then they had another idea: They would start a league of their own.

    The Morris League, as it was soon called, began when the twins figured there had to be others on campus thinking their identical thoughts.

    "A lot of people are walking around who love baseball but don't have a place to play," said Donte.

    In the spring of 2007, they printed up fliers and spread the word: If you wanted to be part of a new league and play baseball, show up at the park near campus. A $125 sign-up fee would cover uniforms and the $200-per-day rental of McAuliffe Field.

    They met every Tuesday and Thursday nights – the same two teams and the same 25 players. But it was baseball, and pretty good baseball.

    "It started out a little raggedy, but by the midseason, we started playing as a team and it was solid," said Dominic.

    "It's an excellent alternative. I was looking around and wondering, 'Man, how am I going to keep my game up?' " said Chris Perry, an 18-year-old freshman from the Bay Area. "I could sum the brothers up in one word: motivated. They do everything they need to do to get everything done. I think it's going to be a pretty big thing one day."

    There are plans for expansion – the Morris League hopes to have four teams this spring.

    In the meantime, the teams are hosting an exhibition that will pay tribute to the West Coast Negro League. It's a reminder to the young players at Sacramento State that their idea to play baseball with students of any and all races is a relatively new one.

    The Morris twins said the Negro Leagues began in the late 1800s. The color line in Major League Baseball wasn't broken until 1947. After that the game was gradually integrated, leading to the end of the Negro Leagues by 1960.

    The Morris brothers learned so much about the history that they began enlightening others, including their parents.

    "The Negro Leagues mean a lot to us. It's why we're playing now. It's the foundation," said Donte. "We feel very fortunate that they sacrificed all they did so that we could play."

    "From middle school all the way through high school, the Negro Leagues were always our class projects," said Dominic.

    Their parents attended every Morris League game, driving from their home in Vallejo.

    "This is good for them. They have a passion for the game," said their father, Paul Morris Sr. "I always told them not to give up on their dreams."

    He says his sons were practically naturals from the time they started playing baseball at 4. By age 5, they were precocious infielders in a league in Berkeley.

    "They turned the double play, and the crowd went wild," their father said. "They were always practicing. I never had to tell them to practice. The only thing I had to do was make them stop and call them inside."

    Having identical twins has made for several mysterious moments. One that stands out is the time Dominic and Donte were 7 and went bowling.

    "They released the ball at the same time, and they both knocked down the same seven pins and left the same three pins standing. I looked at my wife, and we were shocked," said Paul Morris.

    Despite forecasts for heavy storms this weekend, the tribute game will go as scheduled at 1 p.m. today at McAuliffe Field, 3001 State University Drive, Sacramento.

    Donte and Dominic's enthusiasm for baseball and cultural history has been infectious on campus, too. Everyone is behind the tribute game, even though the league has a majority of white players, along with four Latinos, a Japanese exchange student and three African Americans – two of them being the twins.

    Mishae Parker, a senior psychology major, will introduce the exhibition game and give the crowd a brief history of the Negro Leagues.

    Parker is president of a student organization called the Future: Building Awareness Though Culture, which is co-sponsoring the game.

    "I think it's awesome what they're doing," she said of the twins. Through her group, Parker encourages others to interact outside their cultural comfort zones.

    The Morris twins say much has changed since Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier and American society slowly began integrating. In the Morris League and in leagues throughout the nation, they say skin color is of little concern.

    "People don't look at race – they just see if you can play," said Donte.
    The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

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