By BRANDON SPECK / Monroe Journal
AMORY – Mitch Moreland was supposed to sign autographs for 30 minutes. He signed an estimated 3,000 photos, baseballs, bats, hats and shirt sleeves for nearly two hours Monday night as Amory held Mitch Moreland Day to celebrate its favorite son and his rise to Major League Baseball fame.
An estimated 2,500 people were in Frisco Park to watch the event emceed by Mississippi State radio voice Jim Ellis that also featured former Mississippi State coach Ron Polk and Amory baseball coach Chad Williams honoring the Texas Rangers first baseman.
“It’s been an unbelievable day, had a great group out here, a great showing,” Moreland said. “I never would have thought I’d have anything like this for me. To have the support and the people out here to enjoy it with, it was great.”
Called up on July 29, Moreland played a key role in helping the Texas Rangers to the club’s first World Series.
Moreland hit .255 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 47 regular season games. He also walked 25 times. During the World Series, his .462 average was tops among either team.
His Game 3 home run was the first in Rangers history, the bat now in the Hall of Fame.
“Playing in the regular season was great,” said Moreland, who was presented a formal resolution recognizing his accomplishments from Amory mayor Howard Boozer. “The postseason and World Series on top of it, I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Williams told a story of Moreland not covering a bag on a hit in 2001.
“If you’re just going to stand there, go buy a ticket,” Williams said he told him, then laughed that he can now buy tickets to see Moreland play.
Polk energized the freezing crowd with his share of Moreland roasts.
“Was Mitch Moreland a great hitter when he came to Mississippi State?” Polk asked. “Nope. He was so bad, his teammates named him after a famous Chinese philosopher, HitWonSoon (Hit One Soon).”
Moreland signed for an hour before organizers moved the chilly autograph seekers into city hall, where the line doubled around.
“It’s wonderful for him to be back in Amory,” grinned 12-year-old Millie Grace Lafayette after Moreland signed her red Rangers shirt. “He’s done so much. It was cool.”
Moreland signed and had just enough time to catch his ride in Amory’s Christmas parade. He said his offseason plans include a lot of relaxing and a little time in the woods.
“Just try to relax a little bit and do a little hunting,” he said. “I think that will probably be about the extent of it.”