MARPLE — For parts of nine seasons, the name “Morandini’ was penciled into lineups at Veterans Stadium.
A decade and a half after Mickey Morandini’s retirement, there’s another baseball player flying the family’s flag in the Delaware Valley.
Senior Griffin Morandini, the second of the Dandy Little Glove Man’s three sons, is upholding the family tradition at Garnet Valley, where he’s entrenched himself as the starting center fielder for the Jags in his second season at the school since he and his family moved from Indiana to be closer to their father’s budding coaching career.
First and foremost, Griffin feels no pressure in following the footsteps of his father, who played nine of his 11 Major League seasons in Philadelphia, part of the 1993 NL Pennant-winning squad and a 1995 All-Star. Part of that, he thinks, is that few of his peers remember his father having played in Philly, since he called it quits some 15 years ago. (Griffin, who was born in 1997, doesn’t have any recollections of his father as a player. Mickey, however, vividly recalls missing a Sunday afternoon game with Houston on May 18 when his wife, Peg, went into labor that morning.)
But part of his dismissal of any pressure is Griffin’s naturally laid-back personality. He’s always seen baseball as a fun pursuit, something his father has helped foster, in part by always reassuring that the decision of his sons to play baseball is theirs and theirs alone.
“I don’t really view it as pressure,’ Griffin said last week after a game with Marple Newtown. “I just play the game to play the game, have some fun and hopefully get a W. Honestly, I just play my game, do my best I can do and help the team out, and I don’t really view it as pressure.’
“He’s an easygoing, fun-loving kid that likes to play basketball and likes to play baseball,’ Mickey Morandini said. “He just wants to go out and have some fun and play with his friends and try to win as many games as he can. That’s his attitude. He’s a real, fun, great kid.’
Griffin moved into the Garnet Valley school district from Chesterton, Ind., where Mickey was a high school baseball coach at Valparaiso High for four years, prior to his junior year. The move brought Griffin and younger brother Braydon, an eighth-grader, closer to Mickey’s rise through the ranks of the Phillies organization. (Mickey’s eldest son, Jordan, is a sophomore at Valparaiso University.)
Mickey, 48, is on manager Dave Brundage’s staff at Class AAA Lehigh Valley. For the time being, though, he’s filling in at AA Reading for hitting coach Frank Cacciatore, who is on a leave of absence for personal reasons.
For Griffin, the move from Indiana involved a handful of reactions about his lineage, mainly from teachers who recalled seeing his father play. Assuming the mantle that the Morandini name carries came fairly easy, even on the diamond.
“The first day of school actually, a teacher mentioned it to me,’ Griffin said. “… Once the rumor spread around, a few kids came up to me. Nothing special, they were just like, ‘˜Your dad’s a Phillie? That’s cool.’ The kids really don’t remember.’
The differences on the field are stark. Mickey batted left-handed; Griffin is a righty. At 6-1, Griffin’s lanky physique is much different than the 5-11 that his dad stands. Both split their sporting devotions between baseball and basketball: Griffin averaged 5.0 points per game for the Jags’ undersized basketball team this winter, while Mickey, who still calls basketball his first love despite his vertical shortcomings, tallied more than 1,700 points at Leechburg Area High School in western Pennsylvania.
While Griffin doesn’t have the body of a typical second baseman, he followed his father’s path to that position, mainly under Mickey’s tutelage from ages 8 to 14. He’s able to play anywhere on the infield and the outfield, so with Dave Elison returning as the starting second baseman for GV this season, Griffin had no problem adjusting to the outfield.
Now that the baseball season is in full swing, Mickey is not able to see his kids as much. Last Thursday’s game with Radnor, which coincided with a Reading off day, is the first time he’s seen Griffin on the high school diamond, though he was able to catch all of the basketball season. It’s still a better arrangement than when the family lived in Indiana and he was away for six months at a time managing at Class A Williamsport and Lakewood.
Mickey is hopeful that the schedule will allow him to catch at least one more of Griffin’s games this season before catching up on Braydon’s American Legion campaign. He can see the light at the end of the tunnel for Griffin’s career, though, a journey the two have taken together for long stretches.
“I know my time’s coming where I’m not going to get to see him play anymore,’ Mickey said.
While he enjoyed coaching all three of his sons, Mickey’s glad to step aside and let others take the lead on their guidance. That allows them to return to a father-son dynamic, rather than player-coach, which is the way that Griffin sees it.
“I just view him as a dad,’ Griffin said. “I don’t view him as a baseball player or anything special like that. I guess I do have the extra privileges. I guess you could say he puts in work for me and helps me out a lot. But he’s just a dad to me, not a professional baseball player.’