Hunter Morris wrapped up a baseball career to remember in Illinois recently, appearing in his senior season finale against University of Tennessee Martin.
The game marked the end of an illustrious run for the Paris native, who has been playing baseball as long as he can remember.
“Eastern Illinois gave me the chance to play this game in college and I am very thankful for that,” Morris said. “I loved everything about Eastern, it was the perfect fit for me.”
Eastern Illinois head baseball coach Jason Anderson, who has spent six years at EIU and three as the head coach, has overseen much of Morris’ development of Morris as an EIU Panther.
“Hunter is such a great kid on and off the field,” Anderson said. “He has acted as a leader of this program and he embodies everything that a coach wants in a student-athlete.”
Morris began his time at EIU as a catcher, playing in 30 games for the Panthers and earning the Ohio Valley Conference Medal of Honor.
In his sophomore season with EIU, Morris upped his game appearances to 45, this time managing to hit his first career home run against Murray State while locking down an appearance on the OVC Commissioner’s honor roll.
With all athletic careers though comes adversity, and Morris faced the biggest obstacle of his career when he underwent season-ending elbow surgery in 2017. The injury/surgery resulted in his being red-shirted by EIU.
“The year that I missed because of surgery was tough, it wasn’t fun to sit out a year,” Morris observed. “Coming back from that, though, helped me to develop more as an athlete and a person.”
In his redshirt junior season, Hunter appeared in 49 games with 48 starts at first base. He finished the year with a .326 batting average, 61 hits, 55 RBIs, 40 runs and 11 homeruns. Two of those homers were grand slams.
In his senior year, Morris collected a .282 batting average with 61 hits, 50 runs, 12 home runs and a team-high 53 RBIs. He finished the season with All-Ohio Valley Conference second team honors as a first baseman. He finished fifth in the conference in RBIs.
“I loved my time at Eastern Illinois, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Smith said.
The dream of playing baseball did not just appear overnight though. The former Tiger has wanted to play at a high level since his youth, when he would go watch the Paris baseball teams play on the diamond.
“Baseball has always been and will always be a part of my life,” Morris said. “Since I was six or seven I’ve been watching or playing baseball and working to get better.”
Creighton Tarr, who coached Morris during his time at Paris High School, loves the development that he has seen from the athlete.
“Hunter has always loved baseball and I could tell that from his freshman year at Paris,” Tarr said. “He put the time in on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom and he really developed into a natural leader and athlete for the team here.”
Morris still holds several school records as a Paris Tiger including season (.539) and career (.458) batting averages, career walks (86), career triples (9) and stolen bases in a game (3).
Apart from the continuous support and aide of his teammates and coaches throughout his career, Morris’ parents (Dave and Susan Dyer) have made the biggest impact on him, he said.
“My parents are my biggest supporters in the world,” he noted. “They barely missed any games throughout my career and have always been there to help me along when things got tough. I am so thankful for the support they have shown me throughout my time playing baseball.”
His passion for baseball, which sprouted inside him as a wide-eyed kid watching the Paris Tigers on the field, has blossomed into a smoldering love and admiration for the sport. Having been the kid on the other side of the fence, wishing and dreaming of playing America’s pastime, Morris has some words of advice.
“Go out there everyday and attack, work hard and be different,” Hunter said. “The future is bright, you just have to go and work for it.”
Hunter graduated from Eastern Illinois in May with an undergraduate degree in exercise science. He has sent out applications for graduate schools in the fall where he hopes to become a physical therapist.