Though due to receive his 2014 World Series ring in a ceremony before the Giants played the Miami Marlins on Thursday night, Michael Morse said he had already been given a glimpse of his newest diamond-studded accessory.
It came courtesy of Giants pitchers Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson, both of who Morse said called him after the current Giants received their rings in a ceremony in April and showed him the ring over FaceTime. That gave Morse plenty of time to decide what he plans to do with his silver-and-gold award – which many players say they confine to a secure place, only to be taken out on special occasions.
“Oh, man, wear it!” Morse said Thursday afternoon, while standing in the visiting dugout at AT&T Park. “I’m going to wear it everywhere. It’s going to be tough to take that thing off, man.
“To me it’s a symbol of what we went through last year, the ups and downs,” Morse said. “We had so many trials and things that brought us together as a team. That little piece of jewelry represents a lot to me.”
A month’s worth of games this season has largely distanced the Giants from their run to a third World Series title in five seasons last October. But Morse’s return to AT&T Park as a member of the Marlins on Thursday – and the ceremony in which Morse was to be presented with his ring on the field just before first pitch – gave Morse, the Giants and their fans one more chance to reflect.
“One of the reasons we got off to such a strong start (in 2014) is because of the way that he played for us in April and May,” Giants general manager Bobby Evans said. “And when he went through some tough times, he didn’t let it get him down. He worked hard and helped bring a lift to this club.
“We’ve done it in the past,” Evans said of the ring ceremonies for visiting players, such as Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria in 2011. “And I think especially when someone plays the role of the hero in the postseason, it’s always nice if we can do it.”
Morse carved an indelible image in the memories of Giants fans with his dramatic game-tying homer in the eighth inning of Game 5 of the National League Championship Series and ensuing wild romp around the bases.
With the Giants down 3-2, Morse entered as a pinch-hitter against side-winding St. Louis Cardinals reliever Pat Neshek, who he said Thursday was “the one guy I didn’t want to face” in the series, and lined a 1-1 slider over the left-field wall. Travis Ishikawa then hit a walk-off homer in the ninth to send the Giants to the World Series.
“I know Ishi’ hit the big home run to win it for us, but it changed everything – how they’re going to use their pitching – the home run that Morse hit,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He was a lot of fun, a great teammate.”
Morse also drove in what turned out to be the winning run in Game 7 of the World Series – contributions that were all the more unlikely because Morse had missed most of September and the entire division series with an oblique injury.
Morse helped carry the Giants in the first half of the season, hitting 14 home runs with 46 RBIs and stepping in at first base for injured Brandon Belt. But the oblique injury limited him to just 39 games in the second half and two at-bats total in September. Scrambling to return for the NLCS, Morse actually flew to Arizona to get at-bats in the instructional league.
“I was thinking about that, and the fact that they trusted me, saying I was ready,” Morse said. “They came to me and asked me how am I doing. … I felt good, I felt good enough to play. They trusted me.
“Everything that happened, I guess, happened for a reason and made it worthwhile.”
Morse said there were no hard feelings over his departure from the Giants in free agency this offseason: “Actually we left at really, really, really good terms.” He plans to join the team for its June 4 visit to the White House – an off-day for the Marlins.
Joining the Marlins was something of a homecoming for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native, and Morse said he’s “fortunate” to be playing in Miami. He’d fallen off after a good start, entering Thursday batting .193 with two homers, but was in the Marlins’ lineup Thursday batting sixth and playing first base.
The question is whether he’ll be in there again Saturday. If so, he’d be facing Giants left-hander and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner.
“I can’t wait; it’s going to be so much fun,” Morse said with a big grin. “I’ve just got to bear down and if I get a hit, man, oof, I can’t wait. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”