Professional baseball fans in the 1990s knew all about Hal Morris.
A first baseman in the decade, mostly with the Cincinnati Reds, the left-handed-hitting Morris helped the Reds capture the 1990 World Series championship in his first season with the club, strung together an impressive 32-game hitting streak in 1995, and hit better than .300 in six seasons.
But only a small racketful of folks know that the same Hal Morris played tennis for Munster High School varsity squads in Indiana, using his left hand to serve and his right hand to strike everything else on the court.
Foes on the other side of the net must have reacted with a double take, or a triple take, the first time Morris shifted his racket from his left hand to his right after completing his service follow-through.
“It worked out,” the 55-year-old says humbly. “I’d broken my left arm playing football in eighth grade, so I played tennis instead of football in the fall of my freshman year and stuck with the sport for three more years.”
Morris, in his fourth year as a Winnetka resident, has a firm and comfortable grip on life off the diamonds and courts today—working as a partner for a San Francisco-based private-equity firm and loving every moment as the husband of New Trier High School graduate (not to mention CEO, entrepreneur, and author) Alyssa Rapp and the father of 8-year-old Audrey and 5-yearold Henriette.
“I drive around the area and I still smile at the surrounding beauty of the North Shore,” says Morris, who retired from baseball after a 13-year career in 2000 and earned his MBA at Stanford University, where he first met Alyssa in 2003. “It’s gorgeous, isn’t it? The residents are accomplished, and the facilities are great, as are the families. While visiting Chicago and Wrigley Field all those years as a Red, I’d heard tremendous things about this area from friends.
“Everything about the North Shore,” he adds, “is wonderful.”
Born in Fort Rucker, Alabama, the 6-foot-4 Morris notched a unique hat trick as a Mustang senior at Munster High School, serving as varsity captain of three teams: tennis, basketball, and baseball. Morris set the basketball program’s single-season record for blocked shots—as a senior shooting guard. The son of Margaret and the late William Morris—who chose to pursue a degree i n medicine instead of ground balls at shortstop as a professional baseball player—Hal competed in baseball only at the University of Michigan for three seasons.
The New York Yankees selected him in the eighth round of the 1986 amateur draft. “I would not have played professional baseball without having my dad’s constant support,” Morris says. “He never put pressure on me. Not a single day. He encouraged me to pursue my dreams when I was young.”
Hal Morris’s uncle Buddy Lewis, an infielder/outfielder and two-time All-Star, played with the Washington Senators for all 11 years of his big-league career, amassing 1,563 hits in 1,349 games and batting better than .300 four times. He finished with a career batting average of .297 after his final season in 1949. “Look at all of his numbers,” Morris says. “He had quite a career, and he was young, only 18, when he made it to the majors. I love talking about my uncle’s career. I’m proud of what he did in baseball.”
Former Reds manager Lou Piniella, like Morris and closer Randy Myers, was in his first year with Cincinnati when the parent club started 9-0 in 1990 and swept the Oakland A’s 4-0 to win the World Series. Morris batted .340 with seven home runs and 36 RBIs in 107 games that year. His sacrifice fly drove in the game-winning run in Game 4 of the World Series in Oakland.
“Lou,” Morris recalls, “arrived soon after Pete Rose’s managerial tenure. He was a young, aggressive, intense manager, which didn’t surprise many because he was a fiery player. And Lou was a fantastic hitting instructor. Had a huge influence on me as a hitter.
“I remember his first meeting with the players in 1990. He looked around at all of us and told us, ‘There’s a lot of talent here. We’re going to win it this year.’” Morris’s final swing in a major-league uniform was a memorable one. His pinchhit, RBI single to left field knocked in the winning run in the Detroit Tigers’ 12-11 defeat of the Minnesota Twins in 2000. He played for four teams in 13 years, including a pair of stints with the Reds, whose 1990 personnel did not celebrate this year’s 30th anniversary of the club’s World Series triumph in person because of the pandemic.
After gloving his MBA at Stanford, Morris served as a pro scout for a combined three season with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Boston Red Sox, before working for the Los Angeles Angels as their pro scout director from 2011-2016.
Morris’s courtship with Rapp, a gymnast during her NTHS years, lasted eight years. They got married on November 11, 2011—or 11/11/11— at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe. Rapp is the CEO of Surgical Solutions, a health care solutions company based in Deerfield, and an adjunct assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Her book Leadership & Life Hacks: Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur, and Executive achieved Amazon bestseller status in the business management category last January.
“A brilliant woman, exceptionally bright, with boundless energy,” Morris says of the Winnetka native. “She’s very active, with a lot of admirable qualities. And I’m fortunate that I get to coparent with Alyssa. Parenting is challenging; you do the best that you can. I try to communicate often and be as available as I possibly can for our girls.
“The girls …. they’d probably say I’m a silly father.”
Morris thinks about his late father often, especially during the holidays.
“My father was a wonderful, wonderful man,” Morris says. “I’ve tried to relish every day since he passed away three years ago. Life is fleeting. I appreciate good health now more than ever.
“And I truly appreciate time with family.”
Consider that a verbal home run. Touch ’em all this Thanksgiving weekend, Hal.