Morrison hits the ground running in first season as Groves skipper

By: Mike Moore | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published May 16, 2016

BEVERLY HILLS — Exciting and intimidating.

That’s the emotional mixture Shawn Morrison found himself juggling when the 2016 baseball season began — and both were understandable.

About to start his first season as head coach with the Birmingham Groves baseball team, who wouldn’t be thrilled with the opportunity?

Then again, Morrison was taking over for a coaching legend.

“Coach (Jim) Crosby was a staple of Groves baseball,” Morrison said last week. “You want to build on the tradition he left here while also trying to make it your own.”

Crosby spent 42 years as head coach with Groves, winning 719 games.

“I never counted the losses,” Crosby said with a laugh when asked about his career record. “But Shawn is a good coach, and he’s doing a great job with the guys.”

The 2015 spring was the final one with the program for Crosby, and Morrison, an assistant on last year’s team, took over.

“Being able to work under him for a year was a big help,” Morrison said. “Baseball is one of those games where you can grow as a coach and a player no matter the circumstance. It was good to be his assistant for a year and learn some of the things a head coach has to do.”

Morrison, a 1998 grad of Walled Lake Central, played college baseball at Western Michigan University before playing in a number of professional leagues in the states and overseas.

While living in Florida, the coaching itch began.

He served as a varsity assistant, a middle school head coach, and then eventually a varsity head coach in Florida.

After a few years, he moved to South Carolina and again served as a varsity head coach.

He returned to Michigan a year ago, settling down in Royal Oak while joining Crosby and the Falcons staff.

Groves went 18-18 in 2015.

At press time, Morrison had his squad with a 17-6 overall record and a 6-2 mark in the Oakland Activities Association White Division.

“We expected to be competitive this year,” Morrison said. “At the same time, when you take something over like this, you have to put the work in. For me, the preseason and the indoor preparation was something I really had to be reminded of. Coaching in the South, we didn’t have to worry about that. The offseason was so much different than here from a coaching perspective.”

Still, Morrison said he wanted to “surprise people” with how well his guys could play this year.

“We knew we had the ability,” he added.

But when asked about the strong record and strong play so far, Morrison didn’t specify if it was pitching or defense or offense leading the charge.

“It’s really been the mentality,” he said. “The guys have found ways to win. The system we’ve put in place helps us have games within the game. We keep track of our record by inning. We want to win every inning, for example, which leads to goals of extending leads or closing gaps when we’re behind. We also look at some of the nontraditional statistics that help us focus on the process, not so much the result.”

“I think in baseball a lot of focus is given to the result, and not so much on how you got there,” Morrison continued. “You can do a lot of bad things and sometimes still get a good result. We’ve broken it down to focus on the right process. We try to generate one big inning per game. We try to score seven runs and give up no more than four. It’s the games within the game.”

Morrison said he’s truly enjoyed this season and can’t help but stay excited about the future, considering just two regular starters are set to graduate after this year’s playoffs.

“I think we’re going to be a contender around here for the foreseeable future,” he added.

Exciting, intimidating, and so far — for the first-year coach replacing the legend — plenty successful.