Surf's up: Morgan a wave aficionado
Speedy outfielder's hobbies extend outside of baseball
VIERA, Fla. -- Baseball and hockey are not the only sports Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan loves to play. It turns out he is a big-time surfing fan and will sometimes ride the waves.
Morgan became a fan when he went to play in the Hawaii Winter Baseball in 2006. It was there he met Devin Ivany, then a prospect for the Nats and now a Spring Training invitee for the club.
The two became fast friends, and Morgan, then a Pirates prospect, noticed that Ivany was going out every morning to go surfing. One day, Ivany asked Morgan if he wanted to ride the waves with him. Morgan agreed, but he got seasick on his first day.
"It was pretty funny his first day," Ivany said. "But Nyjer enjoyed it. He's a real trouper. He kept at it. Most people wouldn't have gone back in the water. He said, 'Let's go.'"
Morgan became infatuated with the sport after Ivany took him to Sunset Beach in Hawaii to see surfing great Gerry Lopez in 2006.
Today, Morgan is by no means a surfing champion, but he still loves to ride the waves.
"I just fell in love with it," Morgan said. "Devin took me to Sunset Beach, and when I saw those guys out there, it's unreal. The surfers really don't get recognition. It's such a struggle to get out there. The paddling is the hard part."
After Washington acquired Morgan from Pittsburgh last June, Morgan became friends with right-hander Collin Balester after finding out that Balester also loved to surf.
"Nyjer is a great guy. He can relate with a lot of guys," Balester said. "He is knowledgeable about that kind of stuff. He likes to have fun -- surfing, hockey and all that kind of stuff. You can always talk to him about anything."
Morgan then learned that Balester's father, Tom, built custom-made surfboards. Morgan wanted to own his first one.
Tom Balester made a special surfboard for Morgan, which has Morgan's nickname, Tony Plush, on the front of the board. The last time Morgan went surfing was during the offseason.
"I sent the money out to Collin's father and he mailed the board back to me, and I have a board now," Morgan said.
Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.