Morrill travels across country to make summer pitchUniversity of Maine hurler back at school ready to help Black Bears succeed
Orono — For most college students, summer vacation means, well, vacationing, parties and reuniting with family and friends.
For Luke Morrill, a Rockland District High School graduate and right-handed pitcher on the University of Maine baseball team, summer vacation meant taking a long journey across the country to Bellingham, Wash. to play summer league baseball for the Bellingham Bells.
How exactly does a Mainer end up on the opposite coast to play summer baseball?
“Well, [my college teammates] Alex Calbick and Mike Conolly both signed contracts to play for the Bells earlier in the year,” said Morrill in an interview several weeks ago. “I assume that [Maine Head Coach Steve] Trimper had kept in contact with the coaches out here throughout the year, so when Trimp let me know that I could come [to Washington] and work with one of the best pitching coaches on the West Coast, I decided to do so.”
Just because Morrill played this summer with the Bellingham Bells, which has concluded its season without reaching the playoffs, does not mean that was the original plan.
“I had a contract in the beginning of the year to go play for [the] Chatham [Anglers] in the Cape Cod League,” he said. “But I struggled with some mechanics, which led to a struggle with my command in the beginning of the year. My innings count wasn’t what it should have been and having not played summer ball last year [due to an injury], I really needed to get some innings in. So coach [Trimper] and I sat down and came to the conclusion that Bellingham was the best option. I knew that I could go down to Chatham and compete, but the innings is what I really needed and Bellingham provided that.”
Morrill, a 6-foot, 5-inch business management major, said how the two coasts are pretty similar to one another.
“Washington is a great place,” Morrill said. “We’ve been pretty lucky out here with weather, so this summer has been beautiful. And actually, Maine and Washington are pretty similar. The weather is pretty much the same and the bases are still 90 feet apart out here so I haven’t had too much trouble adjusting.”
While playing for the Bells, Morrill was placed with a host family for lodging.
“I’m living in Alger, which is about 15 minutes south of Bellingham with [hosts] Dave and Jackie Carpenter and another pitcher, Andrew Olson from Seattle University,” Morrill said.
“[An] average game day would consist of waking up and working out at the Bellingham Athletic Club, come [home] and raid the fridge for leftovers and relax before the game,” Morrill said. "At the field, we’ll meet as a team before [batting practice] and go over the itinerary. Then, the pitchers will shag and do their workouts in the outfield, get our bullpen [sessions] in and doing our running. During the game, if we’re not on a pitcher’s chart or the radar gun, we’re kicking it in the dugout cheering on the boys.”
On his off days, Morrill often could be found fishing — perhaps ironic for a young man whose family includes generations of lobster fishermen.
“My host dad knows all the good spots and we’ll take the boat out on the lake with a couple guys and fish all day,” Morrill said of his time in Washington. “You can’t get enough of it out here. The view on the lakes are outrageous and the fishing is great so it’s tough not to fish every day.”
The Bells play home games at Joe Martin Field in Bellingham, while the team also makes road trips to Oregon and British Columbia.
“I love the road trips,” Morrill said. “The bus rides are pretty long, but everyone on the team gets along real well so we make them fun. And plus we are lucky enough to drive through some of the most beautiful views in the country along the way, so it’s been a real blessing to be able to come out here and play.”
With the summer ball season completed, Morrill now turns towards his junior season at UMaine. Morrill suffered an arm injury during his freshman year in Orono, but said his arm “feels strong.”
He also said “the coaching staff here in Bellingham is huge on arm care and, on top of that, I have learned different arm care routines and workouts from the other guys on the team. It’s all helped me tremendously.”
Morrill also said that playing in Bellingham “has been a real blessing” in regards to gaining some “valuable experience” when playing summer ball.
A personal goal for Morrill — who finished summer ball in Bellingham with seven starts on the mound, a 1-1 record and 33.2 innings pitched — is to “be able to work for a spot in the starting rotation" for the Black Bears.
“I’ve worked on a lot of things out here this summer and I think I’ve developed and matured into a better pitcher,” he said.
During summer ball, Morrill allowed 15 runs (11 earned) on 23 hits and 14 walks, with 31 strikeouts — good enough for 3.33 earned run average.
After the rapidly-approaching college season, Morrill will be eligible for the Major League Baseball draft.
While that is every pitcher's dream, that is hardly the former Tiger's focus.
“Right now, I’m focused on coming in and giving everything I have to give to help the University of Maine win,” he said. “If that means that I get some exposure and end up getting drafted, I will be extremely grateful, but as of right now, my thoughts and concerns are performing to my abilities and helping Maine win.”
George Harvey, an intern for Courier Publications, lives in Coral Springs, Fla., except in the summer, when he resides in Warren. The incoming Coral Springs Christian School junior has had a passion for sports journalism since a young age. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.