By STEVE KRAH
Mickey Morandini’s baseball talents took him through 1,298 games in Major League Baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs and Toronto Blue Jays.
The lefty-swinging infielder played in 1,298 regular-season games plus the 1993 World Series and got to represent the USA in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. He has coached in the Phillies organization and is now in his third year as a team ambassador.
A big part of Morandini’s diamond development came in his four seasons (1985-88) at Indiana University, playing for Bob Morgan who served as Hoosiers head coach 1984-2005.
“(Morgan) worked our butts off,” says Morandini, who went to IU from Leechburg (Pa.) Area Middle/Senior High School near Pittsburgh, where he played for Blue Devils head coach Bob Obendorf. “Everyday was a grind.
“I got a lot better and a lot stronger.”
Morgan operated with a very set routine. He rolled out drill after drill and players moved from station to station when the whistle blew.
“It was upset and there was a lot of throwing,” says Morandini. “There were no breaks.
“At the end of a two-hour practice, you were exhausted.”
Morandini played third base as a freshman and then switched to shortstop. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1987 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but decided not to sign and went back to Indiana for his senior season and earned second-team All-America honors.
“It was a tough decision to go back to college,” says Morandini. “I’m from Pittsburgh and grew up a huge Pirates fan. But I had the opportunity to play on the Olympic team.”
Morandini, who was dating Valparaiso (Ind.) High School graduate and future wife Peg, was chosen to go to Korea and helped the USA capture gold at Seoul. First, there was a U.S. tour at minor league parks then games in Italy and Japan.
“It was an awesome experience,” says Morandini. “I was in the Olympic village hanging out with other athletes.”
Morandini was close to an Elementary Education degree at Indiana. He just didn’t do his student teaching.
Mickey and wife Peg have three sons — Jordan, Griffin and Braydon. The two older boys now live in Indianapolis. Mickey enjoys coming back to IU baseball reunions each October. When the 2020 event was canceled, he put together an impromptu gathering of about 18 players who played golf and spent time together at a lake near Bloomington, Ind.
Chosen in the fifth round of the 1988 MLB Draft by the Phillies, Morandini began his professional career in 1989 by hitting .338 in 63 games at Low-A Spartanburg, .302 in 17 games at High-A Clearwater and .351 in 48 games at Double-A Reading.
“I turned a lot of heads,” says Morandini, who hit .260 in 139 games in 1990 at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and made his MLB debut with Philadelphia on Sept. 1, 1990.
His first big-league hit was a 10th-inning single off San Diego Padres right-hander Greg Harris. He later scored the game-winning run on a single by John Kruk.
Morandini, who played most of his MLB games as a second baseman, collected four hits in the 1993 National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves and one in the 1993 World Series against the Blue Jays.
He was an NL All-Star in 1995, the year he hit .283.
Morandini spent the 1998 and 1999 seasons with the Cubs.
By the time he was dealt to Chicago a few days before Christmas in 1997 Morandini had already lived in northwest Indiana the better part of eight years.
“It was a lot of fun,” says Morandini of his time with the Cubs. “It was a perfect fit. I could drive back and forth to the ballpark. I love Wrigley (Field).”
The 1998 season gave Morandani an up-close view of a pennant race, Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game and the home run battle between Sammy Sosa of Chicago and Mark McGwire of St. Louis.
“It was great to be a part of,” says Morandini, who appeared in the National League Divisional Series for the Cubs against Atlanta and appeared in the same lineup with another former IU player — Kevin Orie — 44 times in 1998.
Mickey Mo was with both the Phillies (91 games) and Blue Jays (35 games) in 2000. He went to spring training with Toronto before a rotator cuff issues essentially ended his playing career.
Morandini posted a .268 batting average (1,222-for-4558) with 597 runs, 209 doubles, 54 triples, 32 home runs, 351 runs batted in, 123 stolen bases, 437 bases on balls, .338 on-base percentage and .359 slugging percentage. He finished his career with a .989 fielding percentage as a second baseman.
With the Blue Jays, Morandini was reunited with Jim Fregosi, who had been the Phillies manager for the end of the 1991 season through 1996.
“He had been in the game a long, long time as a player and a coach,” says Morandini of Fregosi. “He knew base ball. He was he first manager that brought me to the big leagues and I’ll always be grateful to him for that.
“For him, as long as you played the game and played it the right way, that’s all he could ask for. He knew when to get on you and knew when to pat you on the back. He was really good with dealing with personalities.”
Back in Indiana, Morandini enjoyed coaching his sons in youth and travel baseball.
He was approached about becoming the head baseball coach at Valparaiso High School.
“It was intriguing,” says Morandini of the opportunity. “I love coaching kids.
“I jumped on it.”
Morandini led the Vikings program for four seasons (2007-10) while Jordan and Griffin were at neighboring Chesterton High School.
“I was going to continue then minor league opportunity came up,” says Morandini, who spent five years coaching in the minors and two in the big leagues prior to Gabe Kapler becoming manager and hiring his own coaches — all with the Phillies organization — before taking his current position.
As ambassador, the 54-year-old Morandini is the face of the organization and makes many public appearances and attends games at Citizens Bank Ballpark.
“I mingle with fans and season ticket holders, go to hospitals and play in charity golf tournaments,” says Morandini, who spends most of his time in the Philly area with a short trip to Clearwater, Fla., to entertain sponsors at spring training. “I love it. It’s an awesome job. I get to meet and greet people.”
2 thoughts on “Former Indiana U., MLB infielder Morandini enjoying ambassador role with Phillies”
Always wondered how he ended up coaching at Valpo High School.