Well, where to begin? I guess firstly with “thank you”. But there’s so many things to say “thank you” for and it doesn’t seem quite right to launch into all of those quite yet. I have to warn you, though, and anyone else who stumbles across this, that it’s probably going to be rather soppy and no doubt inappropriate or something to someone. But I need to say something to you, to show my full appreciation. Small messages with fleeting words don’t really do you justice, I don’t feel, for everything you’ve done for me personally and for the team as a whole. Anyway, any excuse to use my rather flimsy pointless blog are very welcomed.
So, I guess for me it starts when I first began to play for Hampshire back in July 2012. Really, it feels a lot longer ago than that now and for good reason too. I remember my first game like it was yesterday. It was at Leamington Spa on Sunday 15th July. We had to be at Parkway for 8.30 that morning and I remember being nervous all week leading up to the match. I was absolutely terrified that I would somehow manage to screw up the game for the whole team, all of whom were strangers to me. Then, Sunday morning arrived and I was dressed in my T-shirt, trainers and trackie bottoms because I didn’t have a kit and that’s what you’d said I should wear. I remember getting out of the car with Mum, coming over to the mini bus. Chris Powell and you were off the bus waiting. I was shy and really didn’t know what to say, especially when I realised you were a towering giant-type man. I’m a small person, that has been proved many times in my life, but I really was little right there in front of you. You remarked on that right there and then as Mum and I stood there with you beside the bus. I remember reaching up to touch the top of your head, with your instructions, and only just being able to do it. “My God,” I remember thinking, “he really is not tiny.”. You explained the `Tiny` thing to me on the bus and I’m glad you did because I really had not a clue how you somehow managed to be nicknamed that.
That first bus journey up to Leamington was nerve shattering. I felt like I was going to crumble every time we hit a bump in the road. I’d only played practice games of cricket at school so what possessed me to think that I should play at county level will always be beyond me. But somehow I still am. The spirit of you guys on the bus that day, your singing, jokes and general banter made me feel like I’d been there for ages, that I belonged. Of course, I already knew a few of the players from Toynbee days and it was nice to have some that were familiar, even if they had changed massively from what I remembered. I remember the team talk that day, everyone huddled around you listening, taking absolutely everything you said in. Jemma was looking after me that day, which I will always appreciate and thank God for, and when everyone was positioned on the field, I was glad she was close by. It would definitely be fair to say that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Sometimes, I still feel that way. But the atmosphere of the team and the encouragement I got from everyone made me feel a lot more relaxed. I felt so welcomed by everyone even though I didn’t know what I was doing and pretty much had to be instructed on my every move. I didn’t mind, though, because I wanted to learn and to be able to do something useful and valuable for the team, even if it was taking balls to the shins. I soon discovered that this was pretty normal and almost compulsory if you’re a b1. It took me ages to figure out what that meant, too, and how sight categories work.
But the fact that I didn’t seem to know a single thing about anything to do with cricket and barely said a word during the whole day didn’t seem to bother anyone, least of all you. At the end of the day, when everyone was worn out on the ride back on the bus, you asked if I’d be coming again. I was really surprised. I didn’t really think it would be that easy to play again—I’d hardly done anything! But you and the team seemed quite certain that I could. So I said I would. I was given a shirt to keep for every time we played. I’d never even seen a cricket shirt before and felt rather honoured to have a Hampshire one. After that game, I don’t think I ever felt so nervous and shy again. I always feel nervous every time we go out on the field because there’s no knowing what will happen. But the spirit of the team, the constant encouragement and praise made me know I obviously couldn’t be playing as badly as I’d feared. I loved the way you always encouraged each and every player. The bad aspects of the game were never highlighted too brightly and if they needed to be discussed then it was always made clear what the good points were, too. I always felt that if I did something wrong or bad that someone, most probably yourself, would tell me and make sure that I knew for next time what to do right.
I don’t know if everyone would agree with me but I think it would be fair to say that that’s all because of you. There’s no way the team spirit and enthusiasm would have always stayed at what it was without you. I don’t know what it takes to be a captain or to lead a team to victory like you have but I do know that you’ve done a mighty fine job in doing it. I don’t think Hampshire could have done it without you, either, and I know that if it hadn’t have been for you asking if I’d come back and play another game that first ride home from Leamington, I probably wouldn’t have played again. That welcoming from the team that first day and your ongoing support has made me want to continue playing, continue doing my absolute best to help Hampshire do well. We haven’t won every game that is very true, but we’ve always gone out on to the pitch wanting to win with you as our leader and when we’ve lost, we’ve gone off with our heads held high, spurred on by your encouragements. It hasn’t seemed to matter how much we’ve lost by, you’ve continuously kept our spirits high, always had a positive word to say even when everyone is feeling a bit glum and stiff. I think that day was also the day I gained my own nickname. Someone remarked, and it may well have been you, that usually everyone has a nickname on the Hampshire team. Suddenly, I did too. I was A5, simply because that was a small piece of paper. Originally, I think it was you and Jonathan Lewis who came up with the idea but it quickly stuck. From that day onward, I’ve been A5. For some reason, even my parents took it upon themselves to call me it at home.
When I took my first catch, only a few weeks later, I couldn’t actually believe it had happened. I hadn’t even realised I had the ball safely in my hands until everyone started yelling. It had already hit the floor by then but apparently because I’d caught it off of the first bounce and held it long enough, it counted. I was suddenly surrounded by everyone, being congratulated and hugged. It was so overwhelming to know that I’d caught the ball, that I’d actually made a positive difference to the game. That was the moment I knew for sure that I wanted to play for Hampshire, wanted to be in your team. That praise and friendliness from everyone made me certain that, despite the fact that I wasn’t sporty at all, I wanted to play blind cricket for a lot more than three games.
Even when I left for college, only a year later, you kept reminding me that I was always welcome back for Hampshire. I hadn’t really expected you to say that or it to be possible, really, seeing as I was going away for two years and didn’t know how involved in cricket I would be. With your advice, I decided I would train with the RNC team, which I did three or four times, so that I could keep my cricket up for when I came back to play for Hampshire. To be honest, though, it never felt right training with them. They were always on the lookout for players, as their team is always rapidly changing, and I didn’t feel the same vibes from them. Every person training was just another player with no real value or meaning. All they ever seemed to remember about me was that I was the girl who played for Hampshire with captain Tiny with the big voice. They didn’t encourage or praise like the Hampshire team do and their captain certainly wasn’t a patch on you. He was a tall guy but not quite your height and he didn’t really have the powerful voice you do. Actually, I think he was quite quiet in training when I was there. Your singing and banter has given me many memories and I couldn’t help thinking, whilst training with RNC, that they needed a bit of your jolliness. Everything felt quite flat and standard. Everything was done like we were being put through our paces, being tested to see if we were worthy enough to play. I suppose, in all fairness, that that’s because it is a college for the blind who have a large amount of students each year to choose from for their cricket team. But I didn’t feel the same passion from them. I didn’t feel like I belonged with them or that I wanted to play under the leadership of their captain, of any other captain, and after a few training sessions, I stopped going because I knew that I’d never play for RNC and didn’t want to learn their way either. Coming back to train with Hampshire during the winter of my first year at college was a lot of fun. Everyone genuinely seemed interested in what I’d been up to and I felt that feeling of belonging when I came back and trained in Eastleigh. It didn’t feel like we were fighting for our places within the team; it was like we already had them without even needing to try because everyone has their own place on the Hampshire team. I only played once in that season because I was always away at college or on holiday. But I loved it all the same. It was so nice to actually feel wanted rather than just being another person amongst the many. It was like you showed me respect even though I’d done nothing to deserve it, treating me like an individual with strengths and weaknesses rather than just a potential failure. I enjoyed seeing everyone, too, and being a part of the banter that effortlessly flows whenever the team get together.
As I was starting my second year at college, I already couldn’t wait for it to be over. It is well-known, by pretty much everyone, that I wasn’t particularly happy at college by the second year and just wanted to be done with it. Coming back to play for Hampshire was quite a big thing for me. Your support via email and on Facebook made me want to come back. I’d enjoyed training and known, ever since I’d left, that I wanted to come back and play for Hampshire. I’ll never be great at cricket because I can’t bowl to save my life and no amount of practice will ever change that, but I’d like to think that since I first started in 2012, I’ve got a lot better. Back then, I didn’t even know how to hold a bat or how to get to the other end of the pitch at the end of an over—hell, I didn’t even know what an over was—and I feel that thanks to the help in training I’ve had from everyone and your ongoing support and communication while I was at college, I’ve been able to learn how to slay cricket. Most of all, I’ve wanted to learn. I will happily openly say that if it hadn’t have been for you, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college wanting to come back and continue playing for Hampshire. I’ve never been particularly good at sport, and that hasn’t drastically changed, but I think that very gradually I’m getting better. Even if I’m not, I still enjoy it and I wanted to play on your team, learn more valuable things from you.
One of the proudest days of my life will always remain to be Hampshire’s awards ceremony lunch in January 2013. There, we were all given our runners up medals and you also had a few trophies to hand out. I hadn’t really known anything about that before the presentation and was utterly shocked and thrilled when you called out that I’d won the Graham Carter young players’ award. I didn’t really know what I’d done to win the trophy or really why its still sat on my windowsill with my medal now, but I was really chuffed that day that you’d decided somehow I was worthy of it. It really felt amazing that you, Hampshire’s very highly respected captain who just so happened to be a rather fantastic b1 player, had chosen me for an award for how far I’d come playing cricket, even though I’d only played a season and done some training. I’ll always be immensely grateful for that because although my confidence is pretty rubbish, I think you boosted it quite a bit concerning cricket that day.
On the 26th of July this year, just as I was about to go out to Tesco to do the shopping with Mum, she suddenly stopped. She was looking at Facebook and she’d gone rather quiet. Then, she slowly read aloud to me the post you’d written on Hampshire’s page explaining what you’d decided to do. For a few moments, I didn’t really know what to say. I found myself rather speechless and shocked. I hadn’t thought that this season would be your last as captain so I had to reread the post several times for it to sink in. My first question was whether you were quitting playing for Hampshire altogether and I have to say now that I was pretty relieved when you answered that you would still “be around”. Of course, I totally understand and value your decision, as of course it is your life therefore nobody else’s right to decide, and I’m also really grateful that you explained to me when I asked why. So I wanted to take this time, Tiny, to write about my experiences playing for Hampshire with you as my captain. I don’t really know much about the history of the club, when you first became captain or the many games before I started playing, but I do know that for the games I’ve played and the things I’ve witnessed, you’ve been a truly inspirational and incredible captain. I’ve learnt so much from you about cricket, and life as a blindey as well, and I’ll always be grateful for everything you’ve done for me and the team. Hampshire could never have hoped for a better captain than you. A captain is supposed to lead the team, be the one everyone looks up to, the one everyone respects, the one we all know we can go to for advice if we need any, the one who represents the team, the one who gives the speeches and the one who, really, makes the team what it is. Of course, everyone’s own individual personalities add to the team’s atmosphere but it is the captain who makes sure everything is running smoothly and that playing for his/er club is a positive experience. I can honestly say that for me you’ve done all of those things and so so much more. I have to be honest and say that I was quite surprised yesterday when you announced that last Sunday’s win against Dorset was to be your last game as captain. I’m also sure, though, that our new captain is going to do a great job. He is very different to you, though, and it won’t be the same without you leading us. Last Sunday, when that ball collided quite firmly with my face, I actually felt like I was going to faint right there and then. I just wanted to curl up in a tight ball on the floor and become invisible. I hadn’t really expected to cry or lose my breath, but thank you for supporting me and insisting that I get checked over. I didn’t want to go off, though, because it had been a great game so far and as it turned out, a really fantastic one in the end. Anyway, to be honest my face was absolutely fine that evening and has been since. I think the impact of the ball just hurt rather a lot in that split second. I’m really grateful that you let me carry on playing but that you made me promise I’d tell you if something wasn’t right. It was really nice that you actually let me make my own choice rather than deciding on what was best for the game. The way you supported me by thoroughly checking that I wasn’t seriously hurt or too shocked and actually making the whole game wait for me was really kind of you and I honestly don’t think that, without your instantaneous and continuous support, I’d have actually been able to go back out on that pitch. Looking back now as I write this, I’m so glad that I did seeing as it was your last official game as captain. The whole day was really topped off for me when you did your team talk as soon as we’d won and then told me to lead the team off of the pitch as we celebrated our victory. That was an honestly proud and humbling moment for me and I’m so glad your last game as captain will be so memorable for so many reasons. I’ve always really admired your caring personality and the way you reacted when I first started playing about my age. The way you always made sure everything stuck to the policies surrounding my age always makes me smile, especially one evening when we’d come home late from a match and my mum wasn’t quite there to pick me up so you made the whole bus wait. I guess that’s because it’s the rules and you’re just generally a rather nice guy.
I’m going to end this piece with a few comments I’ve collected up from some of the others members of the team. I didn’t want this to all be about what I’ve got to say because you were everyone’s captain and we’re a team. But I just want you to know that I think you’ve been a truly splendid captain and I’m really thankful you were my captain for the last four seasons. I’m really grateful to have had the chance to work alongside you whilst playing for Hampshire and I will always take with me everything you’ve taught me. I hope that you still play next season and in the seasons to come because I think the pitch will sorely miss your angelic singing voice and your fantastic spirit. I hope you find all that you are looking for in the National League with Sussex. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun and they’re very lucky to have you, as Hampshire has been. Like I said before, nobody deserves it more after all the effort you put into your cricket and into leading Hampshire for so long. I know I shall definitely miss you as captain and I’m sure the team will too. But of course I think Ryan will do a grand job. So thank you, one last time, for absolutely everything you’ve done for us. But this is from me, everyone else can say their own stuff, so thank you for everything you’ve done for me: for inspiring me to play; for welcoming me continually right from the start until present; for encouraging me to play; for practically picking me up off of the floor on Sunday when my head felt like it was about to fall off; for always believing in me even though, like I said, I can hardly bat or bowl; for keeping in touch as much as you could while I was at college; for encouraging me to play for RNC but always assuring me that I would always be a Hampshire player and that I was coming back to the team; for welcoming me back when I did come home; for always picking the spirit of the game up even when I have no idea what I’m doing; for the comments and encouragement on and off the pitch; for my nickname—I think the list is far too long and I’d be sat here typing forever if I said “thank you” for every single thing. But thank you for every single thing because not a thing has been missed and I truly appreciate it all. But anyway, enough of me. Wishing you all the best, Tiny, in everything you do and I hope to see you soon. From A5 Paige, who is mighty proud to know you.
“Thank you Tiny for being such an amazing chair. You’ve taken the club from strength to strength and have been great to play alongside.” from Diarmuid Ware
“I would just like to say that Tiny has been a real role model encompassing exactly what cricket is all about. Leading by example with a spirit of fairplay but also with a conviction to win. He is charismatic and well respected throughout the game and always has an encouraging word when things seem not to be going quite the way one might hope. That respect has been earned from the respect that he has shown everybody else. I have been honoured to serve him as a captain and even more so to name him as a friend.” From Ben Good
“Tiny was pretty much the sole reason that I even playing cricket reigniting my passion for the game I’d like to thank him for everything he done and tried to do for me I can quite honestly say I don’t think I’ll meet someone more enthusiastic or as charismatic as him nor do I think I’ll meet someone as projective with his voice a top top man.” From Richard Godwin
“Thanks for being a critical part of Hampshire VICC since its inception. Really hope you join us as often as you feel you can. The team simply won’t be the same without you.” From Matthew Cooper
“Two significant events that have happened to me since going blind firstly getting Irwin and then meeting Tiny Morris who dragged me along to Hampshire VI Cricket I will always be grateful to the big man and there is no way he can retire from the game before me as I am the oldest.” From Dave Daniels
“Thank you for being an ever present and ever loud force in the team. It has been a pleasure to take the field with you and be captained by you. I know I speak for many when I say you will be gravely missed and personally what I have learned from you about the game has been invaluable.” From Mark Oliphant