Matthew Morrell, who is 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds, could have a future catching passes in football or using his 92-mph fastball in baseball, but there’s another sport that offers a clearer illustration of his exceptional hand-eye coordination.
“He’s a freak show of a pingpong player,” baseball coach John Weber said. “There’s no one who will beat Matthew.”
Last school year, Austin Overn of Santa Ana Foothill demonstrated the value of being a multi-sport athlete, starring as a receiver in football, a standout center fielder in baseball and running 10.49 seconds for 100 meters in track. Now he’s at USC.
Morrell, who is committed to Oregon State for baseball, has the same kind of physical and mental makeup that can help him achieve a similar result. He has helped lead Cypress to a 3-0 start in football. He has 16 receptions for 278 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve grown up playing all sports,” he said. “I feel that’s good. They all come together and use certain movements. My dad pushed me to try everything. I’ll see at the next level what’s the best option for me and my family.”
He certainly has the speed to run away from defenders, and his ability to make catches anywhere and everywhere has coaches using the word “acrobatic” to best describe him.
A week ago, he went over a defender to pinch the ball on the defender’s back, then pulled it up over the defender’s head to secure the catch.
“His acrobatic knack is crazy for sure,” Weber said.
Said Morrell: “I like everything about receiver. Running routes is like an art form. I’m fascinated how to run routes. I love showing my athleticism running, jumping, making great catches.”
In baseball, Morrell was a better outfielder than pitcher last season because of his wildness on the mound. Yes, he throws hard, but has learned to pitch for Cypress. Throwing more strikes and gaining better command has been his offseason focus to gain the trust of the coaching staff to pitch in big games.
Some might have forgotten about Morrell this summer because he disappeared. He injured his hip fielding a bunt in June, forcing him to miss seven-on-seven football tournaments and baseball showcases. He came back healthy for the start of August football practices.
There’s no telling what he’s capable of accomplishing. In a football game last season against Tustin, he ran for 121 yards and one touchdown, passed for 119 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 59 yards. He also can punt.
“He’s a special athlete,’’ football coach Rick Feldman said.
Weber gives him an endorsement off the field: “If you had a daughter, you’d want her to date him. He’s a great kid.”
Morrell remembers how many fans became excited last season watching Overn show what a multi-sport athlete could accomplish.
“That guy is a crazy athlete, watching him play football, track and baseball,” he said. “He could do it all and it was so cool to watch. He had everyone cheering him because you don’t see it every day.”
Morrell has Cypress fans oohing and aahing, and they haven’t even seen him in pingpong. He owns his own paddle, which is a warning itself.
“I’m pretty good,” he said. “I used to play when I was younger every day. It kind of comes easy to me.”