By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Tampa Bay Rays infielder Logan Morrison is a pioneer.
What he pioneered may not be as significant as coming to America on the Mayflower, but in the age of social media, Morrison was a trail blazer for athletes following in his footsteps.
Morrison joined Twitter back in 2009, and with his boisterous personality, he quickly made a splash.
“My agent said it would a good opportunity to market yourself and get out there,” Morrison said prior to Wednesday’s exhibition game against Team Colombia, his first in-game action since season-ending wrist surgery in September.
When Morrison joined Twitter, it was a budding social network with a mere 19 million users across the world. Today, there are more than 319 million people sharing 140-character messages.
In 2017, it’s surprising when your favorite athlete isn’t using the platform to interact with fans, but back when Morrison began to make his mark, it was almost taboo.
“I remember Al Leiter asking me a question in Spring Training: ‘So, the Twitter, and baseball, don’t you think it’s too much?’” Morrison recalled. “I don’t think anybody would bat an eye at it (today). Some people go out to bars and do all that stuff. I was Tweeting.”
Morrison’s Twitter fame peaked around 2011, when he was playing for the Florida Marlins (before they were Miami). He’s not sure how many followers he had during his glory days, but he currently has more than 112,000.
The now 29-year-old was a second-year player at the time, and since he was on a 72-win team, he wasn’t a famous baseball player; he was a famous Twitter user.
“It’s not ideal, for sure. I’d rather be known for playing baseball,” Morrison said. “One of the reasons I kind of got away from it, there’s a lot of negativity on there. Mainly – this is going to sound bad – I didn’t want to answer questions about Twitter from reporters anymore.”
Morrison tweeted anything from thoughts on baseball, meeting celebrities such as Charlie Sheen, made some off-colored jokes and even tried to get a Valentine’s Day date one year.
One of his all-time best tweets, which just goes to show how active he was on a relatively unknown thing at the time, was a conversation with his then-manager Jack McKeon.
Morrison tweeted: “McKeon asked me what I had going on tonite. Told him I was going home 2 play w/Twitter. He replied ‘oh, what kind of dog is it?’”
His antics on Twitter got him into some hot water with the Marlins. McKeon reportedly once told Morrison he needed to spend less time on Twitter and more time focusing on baseball.
In 2011, Morrison was one of the better players on the Marlins. He was in the top-three on the team in on-base plus slugging percentage, home runs and runs batted in.
Despite being a statistical leader, that didn’t stop the Marlins from demoting him to Triple-A in the middle of August.
Rumors ran wild.
News outlets assumed Twitter was the reason for the seemingly out-of-nowhere demotion.
According to Morrison, those reports weren’t true.
“It wasn’t because of Twitter. It was because I didn’t go to a mandatory team event,” Morrison said. “There were some things prior to it leading up to that. I should’ve gone, but at the same time, I shouldn’t have been sent down for that.
“People are going to think what they want to think at the end of the day. There’s not much I could do about it.”
The Marlins sent Morrison down to Triple-A for just 10 days to send a message, but ultimately, the relationship was strained between the player and the team.
“You go out there and you lay it all on the line every night, and they send you down for a reason like that,” he said. “It’s pretty ridiculous. You don’t forget it for sure.”
Twitter is now a thing of the past for Morrison, who hasn’t Tweeted since August of 2015.
“It was fun while it lasted, but I’ve just grown out of that stage. I have a baby and a dog now. I’d much rather spend my time with them,” he said.
Even though he’s now a retired Twitter star, he still had some advice for young athletes using the website.
“It’s a great platform to share your personality and to interact with fans,” he said. Keep it jovial. Keep it about subjects that – don’t talk about politics, don’t talk about religion, don’t talk about any of that stuff. Just joke around.”