Danville’s Paul Morse still tops in baseball record book

April 20, 2017 FieldsColumn

Paul Morse, with his dad Phil, during the 1992 season. (Advocate-Messenger photo)

BY MIKE FIELDS

DANVILLE – It’s been 25 years since Paul Morse smacked his last home run, struck out his last batter and chalked up his last pitching victory for Danville High School.

Still, over the last quarter-century, nobody in the state has been able to match the career numbers posted by the former Admirals’ baseball star.

Morse still ranks No. 1 in the KHSAA record book for his prowess as a hitter (65 homers) and as a pitcher (55 wins, 651 strikeouts). He’s also tied for second place in RBI (253).

Paul Morse is now in his 17th season as Danville’s baseball coach.

“I didn’t used to think much about it,” Morse said earlier this week. “But now that I’m getting older, I look at those numbers I put up and I’m kind of like, ‘Wow!’ It was all a little more than I thought it was.”

Morse was an accomplished multi-sport athlete at Danville.

He was a five-year starter in baseball.  As an eighth-grader he was the Admirals’ No. 3 pitcher and won seven games. He also played first base and left field that season.

He quarterbacked Danville to state championship football victories over Mayfield in 1989 and 1991.

He was the sixth man as a sophomore on the Danville basketball team that made it to the Sweet 16, then started for the Admirals his last two years.

He also ran cross country early in his high school career.

Morse capped his high school days by being named the Associated Press’ Male Athlete of the Year in Kentucky his senior year (1991-92).

As talented as he was in all sports, Morse figured out early that baseball held the most promise for a guy who was 6-foot-2, 185 pounds.

He said his dad, Phil, a long-time college coach, “instilled in me early to be realistic. There were limits in football and basketball, depending on your size and speed. But baseball was a sport that, no matter how big or small you were, if you worked at it you could be successful.”

So Morse always found time to work on his baseball skills, even during the football and basketball seasons.

Paul Morse, shown loosening up during the game in which he set a national home run record in May, 1992. (Advocate-Messenger photo)

In the summer, when there were two-a-day preseason football drills, he’d sometimes put on the pads for a morning practice, drive to Lexington for an afternoon baseball game to play for the Dixie Stars, then return to Danville for another football practice that evening.

“Or if I had a basketball game in middle of winter and got home late, I’d still be in the (batting) cage with my dad at 6 o’clock the next morning to get in my 200 swings.”

Morse had a special drive to be the best baseball player possible.

“Paul was an amazing guy,” said David Camic, who was Morse’s baseball coach at Danville. “His work ethic was better than any kid I ever coached. You couldn’t run him off the field. There were a lot of nights I wanted to go eat dinner, but I’d stay late because he wanted to take more ground balls or swing the bat more.”

That dedication paid off.

Morse had one of the most remarkable high school baseball careers in state history, both as a hitter and a pitcher.

“He never wanted to be out of a game. He wanted to play every day,” Camic said. “I remember his sophomore year he hit 15 homers and won 15 games pitching. That was really something.”

Morse said he wasn’t motivated by personal glory.

“I wanted be in action on a daily basis and do anything to help the team win. That was the most important thing. My dad preached that to me growing up. I wanted to do that by pitching, hitting or playing shortstop. Whatever I could do.”

Morse had a flair for the dramatic, especially at the plate.

He broke the national record for career home runs by belting a 10th-inning dinger to beat arch-rival Boyle County 9-8. (Morse also struck out a career-high 19 batters in that game.)

In his last at-bat on his home field, Morse ripped a line-drive grand slam to give Danville a 5-1 victory over Lincoln County for the district championship. (Troy Trumbo threw a 12-strikeout no-hitter for the Admirals.) 

And in his final at-bat in high school, Morse homered in a 2-1 loss to host Somerset in the 12th Region tournament.

(He also homered in his last college at-bat for Kentucky in the SEC tournament.)

The main reason Morse went to UK was because then-coach Keith Madison offered him the chance to be an everyday player and also pitch. He wound up playing a lot of first base and throwing in relief for the Cats.

Coming out of college, Morse was a 19th-round draft choice of the Minnesota Twins. He spent four years in the minors with that organization, and along the way developed a knuckleball. He also pitched in the minors for the Dodgers and Angels. He made it to Triple-A before giving up on his dream of making it to the majors.

When Morse returned home, he reconnected with his alma mater and became Danville’s baseball coach. 

Now in his 17th season as the Admirals’ skipper, he’s guided them to 394 victories, including a couple of 12th Region titles. Morse was inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014.

Besides coaching Danville, he runs the Morse Baseball Academy, where he instructs young players and has several travel teams.

Morse finds it hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since he was playing high school ball.

He and his wife Tamme have two children — Brady’s a seventh-grader; Jaycee’s a pre-schooler.

Three of Morse’s assistant coaches at Danville — Josh Loughry, Duran Elmore and Andrew Lasure — played for him.

“It seems like I just got home from playing pro ball,” Morse said. “It’s crazy. It’s true that as you get older, time goes faster.”

But not so fast that the glory days are left too far behind to remember.

“I was blessed or lucky or whatever to have some special moments,” Morse said.

He recalled his sophomore year when he completed a clutch third-down pass in the Class 2A football finals, and on the next snap Donnie Redd ripped off a long touchdown run that beat Mayfield 7-3.

As a senior, he had a 29-yard TD run in the 2A title game that proved to be the clincher in a 17-14 victory over Mayfield.

“But I couldn’t have asked for anything better than when I set the (national home run) record and we beat our cross-county rival (Boyle County) in extra innings,” Morse said. “There were probably three or four news channels there. It was probably the biggest crowd there’s ever been there. And Danville students rushed the field and met me at home plate.

“That by far has to be the most memorable moment for me.”

Camic credited Morse for providing his high school with great moments, too.

“He brought a lot of joy to Danville High School,” Camic said. “He made them realize there was another sport down there beside football.”

Paul Morse was in Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” in June, 1992. His record, which included only the homers he hit in grades 9-12, has since been broken.

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