Growth moment: Outgoing baseball coach Justin Morgan indebted to U-High for faith, opportunity school provided

by: William Weathers // Contributor

Justin Morgan didn’t choose to reflect on the end of a 10-year journey at University High that culminated last month with the program’s first state baseball championship.

The Cubs, who trailed by seven runs through five innings, staged a dramatic seventh-inning comeback with six runs for a memorable 11-8 victory to unseat two-time defending champion St. Charles Catholic for the Division III select state title.

Morgan, who recently resigned from University High to join Marucci Sports, fondly recalled his journey from 32-year-old novice. He was a former college catcher at UL-Lafayette with a 1 ½ year to his credit in the Chicago Cubs’ system and no head coaching experience at the high school level when he was hired by University High in July of 2014.

“I’m super appreciative and humbled by the opportunity they gave me,” Morgan said of U-High. “As a young coach you think you know some things, but you go through some growing pains. They were patient and supported me through some times where I may have made the wrong decisions, or I may have done the wrong things, and they were behind me 100%.

“Through that process I was able to grow,” Morgan said. “I’m certainly not perfect by any means but U-High was such a great fit for me and my family. I’m blessed to been able to have coached there for 10 years.”

Morgan begins in his new role as Team Sales Representative at Marucci on Friday.

“This came out of nowhere,” said Morgan, the Class 3A All-State Coach of the Year after guiding the Cubs to a 28-8 record. “We were playing Metro ball and getting the summer going, just like normal and getting prepared for next season. It wasn’t something I went out to seek a new job.

“I talked to my wife, we prayed about it, and I felt like the timing was perfect on both ends,” Morgan said. “It felt like the timing was good. It felt like the right fit. Marucci’s a great company and it’s been enticing to have the opportunity to work for them. The opportunity had never arisen. It seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Morgan graduated from East Ascension and continued his playing career at UL-Lafayette where he was a catcher for Hall of Fame coach Tony Robichaux.

Morgan served as the pitching coach for seven years to head coach Chris Schexnaydre at Dutchtown. He also gained head coach experience in Ascension Parish, guiding Gauthier & Amedee American Legion team for five successful seasons.

When former LSU infielder Burke Broussard resigned as baseball coach after 16 seasons at U-High, the school turned to Morgan.

“Not only was Justin such a great coach, but a great person,” U-High athletic director Andy Martin said. “He developed guys on and off the field and had an impact on them. That’s going to be missed.”

Morgan was appreciative of Broussard’s influence in the early stages after taking over U-High’s program.

“I owe a lot to Burke Broussard,” he said. “He stepped away on his own terms and hadn’t retired yet. Our desks were next to each other, and it seemed like I had 100 questions for him every day, and he was humble enough to answer those questions. He was there to help the program.”

Morgan finished with a record of 225-103-1 at U-High, capped by this year’s state championship. The Cubs completed the season by winning 15 of their final 17 games, including a dramatic comeback in the state final with junior Jake McCann delivering a bases-clearing double for the go-ahead runs.

U-High, which won 63% of its games under Morgan, also finished as state runner-up three times and made six trips to the state tournament.

“The coaching profession has been a tremendous blessing to me,” Morgan said. “Coming across these extremely high-character young men and watching families rally around them. Coaches and parents want the same thing. It’s how do we bridge that gap to get to the same spot.

“This past season we won a state championship,” Morgan said. “If everyone knew all the stories behind the scenes, they would be more impressed with that than the state championship itself. I’m blessed that I was able to be a part of our team the last few seasons. I got to be around some really remarkable young men and some really special families, and that part I’m going to miss.”

Morgan’s also cognizant of the repeated life lessons learned under Robichaux and how one in particular applies to his current situation.

“Coach Robe would tell us the program’s going to survive, nobody’s bigger than the program,” Morgan said. “U-High’s continuing to play Metro ball without me there. I’ve always put the program ahead of my own personal needs or wants. I want to help it go in the right direction and I hope we did that.

“It’s not me, it’s a team effort,” Morgan said. “It’s all of the assistant coaches that coached along side of me. It’s the players and parents. … it’s a special place. It was the hardest decision of my life because there’s so many special people there.”