Dennis Quaid played a trimmed-down, rugged version of former major-league pitcher Jim Morris in Disney's "The Rookie."
Neither Quaid nor the movie captured Morris' sense of humor. Maybe, like Morris' path to the big leagues, it just took time to develop.
Morris is the former 35-year-old rookie for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays whose story of making a deal with the high school baseball players he coached was told in the 2002 film.
He spoke at the Hyatt Grand Eagle Ballroom on Thursday for a Kansas Health Association Event. Morris drew plenty of laughs while spreading his message of never giving up on childhood dreams.
After a preview of the movie was shown, Morris took the podium and said, "You just watched that clip (of Quaid). Now you're looking at me going, 'That's not him.' "
Morris gave in when his team in tiny Brownwood, Texas demanded he try out for professional baseball if the team won a district title in 1999.
It did, and when Morris tried out he threw 98 mph. That was 10 mph faster than he threw a decade earlier, before major shoulder surgery forced him to retire as a minor leaguer.
Shortly after the tryout, Morris was in Double-A with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization.
"That was never in the forefront of my mind," Morris said about the possibility of his life as a movie. "All I thought was, 'I'm getting to play baseball.' I was the first one at the ballpark every day, the last one to leave. At 19, if I had achieved what I did at 35, I would have taken it for granted."
Morris said Disney contacted him about making a movie while Morris was in Triple-A in 1999. Several A-list actors were lining up to play him, as was country music star Garth Brooks.
"But he's fat," Morris joked. "I want to be good looking."
Morris' story got better from there. He was called up to Tampa Bay in September; he made his debut in his home state against the Texas Rangers and struck out the first batter he faced, All-Star shortstop Royce Clayton.
In the speech, Morris discussed "dream makers" and "dream killers," putting his father, high school counselor and high school football coach in the latter category because they doubted Morris could succeed.
His grandfather, Earnest, was the primary figure in Morris deciding to help his high school students — and others — reach their goals.
"A lot of letters I've gotten from are from people who spend more time with their kids now or have a job they wanted when they were young," Morris said. "That's a tribute to itself, to chase what you really want in life."