LHS friends, teammates ready for challenge
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
Matthew Morgan and Landon Tucker have shown they have what it takes to get it done on the high-school level, and they both enjoyed successful high-school careers.
Now, the two teammates and friends are ready to take their talent to the next level.
Morgan and Tucker have both signed letters of intent to played college baseball.
Morgan will play for the University of West Georgia, and Tucker is headed to Tennessee to join the Volunteer State program.
Tucker and Morgan celebrated their decisions during a signing-day ceremony in the Steve Pardue indoor practice facility last week.
“Today is a really good day,” said LaGrange High head coach Donnie Branch.
“The reason these guys are signing is a lot bigger than just them. These two young men have great families, they’ve sacrificed time, energy, money, their own personal gain, for their children, in lessons, in travel baseball, in recreation league baseball, extra weight room, extra speed training.
“All those things come to the culmination, and the reward is somebody is going to help pay for their education. It’s about these young men, but there’s a lot of sacrifices that get these young men to this point.”
Morgan and Tucker were happy to be able to share their big day with each other.
They’ve played alongside each other for four years, and they’ve developed a close friendship.
“I’ve been with him for the past four years, and me and him have been working together as hard as we could,” Tucker said. “We call ourselves the little duo. I’m glad to see the other part doing things, too.”
Morgan, whose brother John Morgan was also a standout at LaGrange High, said he’s “very excited” to see Tucker get his shot.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Morgan said. “These past three or four years, we’ve always been hanging out. He’s like family.”
Morgan was LaGrange High’s number one pitcher the past few seasons, and Branch always knew he could depend on him.
Branch, in fact, has known what Morgan is capable of since well before he was in high school.
“I’ve been with Matthew since he was 12-years-old,” Branch said. “I was giving his older brother lessons, and his dad said hey, can my younger son come. I started working with him, and I figured out A, he’s really competitive, and I could tell he had some talent, both of them did. And then as fate would have it, I ended up here a few years later as their high-school coach.”
Branch believes that Morgan has found an ideal landing spot at West Georgia, a Division II program.
“They play great baseball there,” Branch said. “He’s going to fit in well. They like to win, he loves to win. He’s a competitor, and he plays with an edge. That means you’re willing to do whatever needs to be done to get the job done, and that’s the way Matthew plays. I’m really excited for Matthew’s opportunity to go to West Georgia.”
Morgan, who was a pitcher and infielder for the Grangers, is eager to begin his college journey.
“I’m really excited,” Morgan said. “I’m ready to get up there and work. Obviously I’ll have to get stronger, but I’m ready to start working.”
When Tucker joined the LaGrange program as a freshman, he became the bullpen catcher, and that allowed him to become a significant part of the time.
“That’s not a glorious job, but that’s what he had to do,” Branch said. “He got to travel around and be a bullpen catcher on the varsity.”
Tucker, Branch added, “is really a fine young man. He’s a really good teammate. He really improved, and he’s kind of a jack of all trades.”
Tucker played a key role the past few seasons as a pitcher and infielder, and it’s possible he might do both in college.
Tucker was recruited as a pitcher, but he said he’s being looked at as a position player as well.
“I thought it was pitching originally, but the night that I committed they said they wanted me to compete for a spot in the field, in the lineup, too,” Tucker said. “I just want to be able to play. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do.”
While Tucker and Morgan are eager to take the next step, they’ll also look back fondly on their time as Grangers.
“It’s meant a lot,” Morgan said, reflecting on his high-school journey. “They’re like brothers to you. Guys who were here when I was a freshman like Cole Freeman, I can text them, and it’s like we never stopped talking.”
Tucker said he “was blessed to be able to put on for my school these past four years. It didn’t end how we wanted it to, but that’s how baseball goes. I’m also blessed that I’ll get the opportunity to keep playing.”