Danny Morgan has been a high school baseball coach in Oklahoma for a long time.
In his third year as the head coach at Jenks, Morgan picked up his 900th career win when the Trojans shut out Sapulpa, 15-0, in the backend of a doubleheader on March 22.
“To share that (900th win) with this group of coaches and this group of kids is very special,” Morgan says.
But he downplays the milestone.
“I’m very fortunate, very humbled and I’m a very small part of it,” Morgan says. “It takes a whole lot of people to be able to do that. It’s not just one person and that’s for sure.”
“The streak started many years ago, but you’re never worried about how many (wins) you get, you’re just trying to get the next one,” Morgan says. “But it was a special moment and I appreciate the effort of the kids and also the parents and the booster club for what they did after the game.”
What they did was celebrate with 900 cupcakes.
“They presented it to me after the game, and I shared it with the coaches and the kids in the team meeting after the victory,” Morgan says.
No cupcakes were left. “Them kids eat’em up pretty quick,” he says, laughing.
The bulk of Morgan’s coaching career was spent at Okmulgee, where he coached for 38 years.
A 1969 graduate of Daniel Webster High School, Morgan began his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater in 1973. He left for Okmulgee to take over as head coach two years later, leading the program to three runner-up finishes.
Morgan actually retired from Okmulgee after the 2012 season.
“I was completely resigned to the fact that I was going to be an assistant and play in that role, and I was very happy with it,” he says.
He was hired by Jenks to be an assistant under Dennis Keeley the following year. But Keeley left, and the opportunity to be head coach again presented itself. Morgan had some prayerful nights and discussions with his family, then decided to do it.
“We haven’t looked back since then,” Morgan says. “We’ve been very fortunate to have very good kids, and our assistant coaches are outstanding. My high school staff of Darrell Beeler, Jeff Owens, Sandy Farrell and Dustin Hughes are some of the best coaches but better men as I’ve been around in my 43 years of coaching. They are great role models for the kids.”
Baseball is a lot like life, Morgan says, and that is what has kept him coaching the game.
“It’s teaching life skills. You’re going to strike out, you’re going to make errors and you’re going to have moments when you get the game-winning hit,” he says.” But like life, there is a lot of failures. But then you got to get up the next morning and put your pants on one leg at a time and go to work and get after it again.
“That’s the thing we try to teach,” Morgan says. “We want to win as bad as anybody, but the relationships you build and the life skills you teach last for a lifetime.”
Through more than four decades of coaching, many players have apprenticed under Morgan.
Most notably is Ronnie Gardenhire, a former big league short stop and manager of the Minnesota Twins.
“I don’t know if I can name just one. I’ve been very fortunate to coach some great kids,” Morgan says. “A lot of people remember (Gardenhire) because he was a major league manager and my first All-Stater.
Gardenhire made All-State for the Bulldogs in 1975, Morgan’s first season as a head coach. Former players of his have and are now coaching as well. Included among them are Ryan Neill, who is now an assistant at Oral Roberts.
“There are other men I have coached who are now presidents at banks, lawyers, doctors and other professions. So to pick one out because he did something in baseball would belittle the others. They’re all important to me. Any kid who has played for me, there is a relationship and a bond that you develop through athletics that doesn’t break.”