CLEVELAND — Guards forward Eli Morgan pulled out his phone, eager to show off one of his most treasured photos.
“I have one for you. It’s as good as it gets, Morgan said, finding the photo in no time. “Dodger’s first game.”
His father, Dave, holds him at the iconic Los Angeles baseball stadium.
The assumption of Ellie’s age at one year went too far.
“Not even,” Morgan said. “Six, eight months. It started young.”
“It” was Morgan’s love of baseball, but also the bond he shared with his father through the game.
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Ellie and Dave didn’t play catch every day. Dave didn’t make it to all of Eli’s games. By the time Eli was almost 10 years old, Dave Morgan was the sports editor of the Los Angeles Times, a position he assumed in 1985 and held until early 2006.
Then it was on Yahoo! Sports, then to USA TODAY. Dave Morgan is now head of digital sports news for Sinclair Broadcasting Group, maintaining content for Bally Sports’ regional networks, including Bally Sports Great Lakes, which broadcasts Guardians games.
With all his connections in the industry, Dave knows only two other journalists — LA Times editor Fernando Dominguez and John Marvel, who has worked for ESPN, NFL Media, Golf Digest properties and is now at Backstage Media — whose sons have reached the major leagues .
Matt Dominguez, a third baseman drafted in the first round by the Florida Marlins in 2007, played five years, three with the Houston Astros. James Marvel played for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 and is now with the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
“It’s extremely rare,” Dave said.
Eli Morgan didn’t make it because his father introduced him to professional athletes, although he admitted that his father’s job probably made him more enthralled by baseball.
“I got to meet his friends in the media, in the press box, it was cool, seeing everyone writing and scribbling on their paper,” Eli told the Beacon Journal on June 27. “You see him chatting to everyone, the man of the hour. But none of the team.”
Eli Morgan’s father, Dave, “quarterbacked” a dozen reporters when the Angels won the 2002 World Series.
Eli was 6 when the Angels won the 2002 World Series, but his father “quarterbacked” more than a dozen LA Times reporters at each game.
“It wasn’t like, ‘Let’s take my 6-year-old son to the World Series,'” Dave said in a June 29 phone interview. “He watched the games at home. He would hear me talk about it and see the paper. He wasn’t in the middle per se, but he knew that was the reason I wasn’t home tonight, and I know he followed.
“I know it helped him like angels.”
As for attending pro games together, Eli said they might see two to five a year.
Asked if this was a motivation for his career, Eli said: “I’m sure it can’t hurt. It made me fall in love with baseball even more. I have to look at the professional level. Little league was fun, but there’s nothing like going to a ball game, especially with your dad.
“He would always have tickets or ties to Dodger games or Angels games, Lakers games, Clippers games, it was really fun. We have to go to the Rose Bowl. I’ve always been a baseball player, but football didn’t really do it for me. I’m sure if I was a football fan it would stick out more. Just going to the Dodgers and Angels games was great.”
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Dave can understand what Eli meant by falling in love with baseball on those special days.
“He likes what he likes, baseball and golf. Getting Ellie to like baseball just happened, there was no prompting,” Dave said. “Even when he was young, his motivation came from himself. I never had to tell him, “We have to go practice.” He wanted to. If he said he wanted to throw, my answer was always “Sure.”
Dave said he trained Ellie until she was 11; he lasted a little longer with Ellie’s sister, Brianna, who played softball through high school. Their mother, Diana, attended all of their games, and Dave said she was constantly taking pictures and keeping memories as if they were going to the Library of Congress. Dave came when he could, but he didn’t want Ellie to miss a tournament just so they could go to Dodger Stadium.
Guardians outfielder Eli Morgan was coached by two former major leaguers at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School
After all, Eli was coached by professionals including Michael and Ramon Garciaparra, brother and father of six-time All-Star and two-time hitting champion Nomar Garciaparra.
“I was replaced by people who could teach him things I couldn’t imagine,” Dave said. “His first club coach played at the big club. He then played for Michael and Ramon Garciaparra. Brian Bowles, his high school coach, played in the majors. Don Slatt was one of the assistants because that was the high school he attended.
“When Eli was a junior and senior in high school, he had a former major leaguer as his coach and a longtime major leaguer in Don Slaught as his hitting and catching coach.”
After graduating from Palos Verdes High School, Ellie worked for three years at Gonzaga University.
“He was in very good hands,” Dave said of Eli.
Eli was drafted by the Guardians in the eighth round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft. After a stint at Triple-A Columbus in 2021, he made 18 starts for the Guardians, going 5-7 with a 5.34 ERA. Eli has been converted to a relief role this season, his versatility used for multiple innings or the occasional setup man for closer Emmanuel Klasse. This means a longer stay if Dave wants to see Eli as he travels around the country to cities where Bally Sports has offices and channels.
Dave knows that it is uncertain when Eli will be called out of the bullpen. Eli did not appear in the four-game series against the Angels in April.
Eli Morgan took the victory on Father’s Day in his first appearance in Los Angeles
In a three-game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on June 17-19, Dave didn’t get to see Eli take the mound until Father’s Day. The Rangers prevailed 5-3 to win the series 2-1, and Eli struck out three in 1⅔ innings to earn the win.
“As if we didn’t have an emotional weekend enough, he got to compete professionally in Los Angeles for the first time,” said Dave. “He goes into Father’s Day, he wins. We come home and there’s a Father’s Day present.”
It was what Dave described as a baseball card box—like a shadow box, maybe 16 by 24 with five shelves inside—to hang on the wall.
It featured a custom Father’s Day card featuring a photo of Dave holding baby Ellie at Dodger Stadium.
“I hadn’t seen that picture in 25 years. It literally kept me on my toes,” said Dave. “I took the picture and sent it to him. I told him, “As if that wasn’t emotional enough.”
Telling him how Eli had called him on his phone in an instant, Dave appreciated what it meant to his son.
As Ellie said, “It’s as good as it gets.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.