Karin Morris talks the same way
she lives her life – at warp speed. Thoughts and emotions team to generate a torrent of words spilling forth on top of one another.
Her fellow coordinator of the Texas Rangers Greene Scholars program, Sylvia Greene, explains it this way: “Karin’s originally from the North.” But there’s more going on here than Morris’ Wisconsin upbringing. There’s the passion for her work as the Texas Rangers vice president for community outreach and executive director of the Texas Rangers Foundation, and her tremendous pride in the good that comes from that work.
It’s her “dream job,” and Morris often has to pinch herself to make sure she’s not dreaming. “Absolutely,” she says from her office overlooking the Globe Life Park outfield. “Every day I’m so thankful to be able to work with people who are so supportive of what I do and what the foundation does.”
But even good dreams
can be a bit hectic as she balances a bases-loaded work schedule, especially during the season, with those of husband Gary and sons Jackson, 9, and Jameson, 4. She also has grown sons: Cameron, 23 and Chipper 22.
“We have to plan where we’re going at what time and what uniforms do we have in which cars,” she says. She’s thankful to be in a family-focused organization where, the hither and thither done, the whole family can be at the ballpark watching a game.
Fortunately, help is near at hand in the persons of her parents, Jack and Ellen Synold, who moved to the area a few years back and are always available to pinch hit as chauffeurs and sitters.
It’s no wonder that Morris’ life revolves around sports. Her dad coached high school and college football in Wisconsin and still coaches Pantego Christian’s varsity school team. Young Karin was a familiar figure at practice – charting plays, fetching water, chasing balls.
She played volleyball and soccer and ran track in high school, but at Marquette University, with a double major in marketing and international business and a minor in Spanish, she confined her athletics to running.
After graduation in 2000,
she wanted to find a job in sports that combined her business and Spanish education. Texas seemed just the place. First, she was “definitely done with snow and cold.” Second, she was familiar with the DFW area through visits to a friend who had moved here. Third, the state was blessed with lots of major league sports teams. Fourth, there was a large Hispanic market coveted by those teams. Morris chose baseball over football, she says, “because of the intricacies … the things that are almost unnoticeable if you’re just watching as a general fan. I love both sports, but my passion is really for baseball.”
She worked two years at Fox Sports Southwest and Fox 4 before being snapped up by the Rangers in 2003 as director of new market development, implementing a Spanish-language marketing program. Five years later she was named head of the Texas Rangers Foundation, which had been around since 1991 but was due a tune-up.
”We decided that to define what we wanted to do going forward, we needed to define our four core pillars – youth baseball, youth health, youth in crisis and education,” she says. “So we make sure we have programming in those four areas, and that’s where our funding is focused.”
Since then, the foundation’s giving has tripled. The foundation operates a dizzying array of programs, many in cooperation with corporate and civic partners. There’s the RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) initiative, working with cities and school districts to let youth across a five-state area enjoy baseball and softball. The Miracle League offers similar opportunities to those with mental and physical problems.
In the health arena,
the Rangers and Medical Center Arlington join to promote physical fitness and healthy eating among Arlington fifth graders. Youth in Crisis efforts target bullying and provide enrichment activities for children at the Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth.
Another partner is Matthew McConaughey’s Just Keep Livin foundation, which, in DFW, targets students in three area high schools.
”She’s just a beautiful human being,” says foundation Director Shannon Rotenberg. “She’s so passionate, so dedicated and loves the kids she gets to help. She’s got it all.”
But programs cost money, and the Rangers also have a lineup of fundraising events, including the Triple Play Game Show Spectacular, and Evening with the Rangers and the Ozarka Texas Rangers Alumni Golf Tournament.
Morris can always be found working behind the scenes at all such events, be they swanky or sweaty. Deborah Su, manager of outreach services at Medical Center Arlington says:
“I’ve seen her at some of the most high-end social events, dressed to the nines, but she is still helping people with tickets or registration or moving tables, moving chairs. We do golf tournaments, and she’s wearing shorts and it’s hot and it’s sticky, but she’s still out there with a smile on her face to make sure that everyone there is taken care of and that everyone feels important.”
Morris is hard to pin down as to which program is the most fun or provides the most satisfaction. Whatever program she happens to be working on at a given moment, she says, tends to be her favorite. Right now, that’s the Rangers’ Major League Baseball Youth Academy, an $11 million, state-of- the-art facility that will open next year at the Mercy Street Sports Complex in West Dallas.
Yes, the Academy will feature baseball, Morris says, but “it’s really more about the educational component.”
Off-field services will include
tutoring programs, college prep classes, college and career fairs, financial literacy and internship programs, and MLB industry alternative career workshops. The Academy is one of many ways, according to Morris, that the Rangers and baseball are used as a “hook” to accomplish other things.
“A sports team has things it can do for kids that are unique,” she says. “When we talk to kids about health and wellness, we’re approaching it as an athletic organization, so kids may perk up and listen.”
She does admit a special fondness, however, for scholarships, especially the Richard Greene Scholars program, named for the former Arlington mayor who in 1991 spearheaded the drive to build the new stadium that led the Rangers to stay in the city. Each year, a student from each of Arlington’s six high schools is chosen to go through a leadership program and receive a $10,000 scholarship toward their college education.
“It’s an amazing program,” she says. “It’s one of my favorites in the sense that you truly get to see the very best of the best of what Arlington has to offer and, really, what our future has to offer.”
”The fact that Karin has been in all the student interviews makes her very devoted to the kids,” says Greene’s wife Sylvia. “She understands how beneficial this program is because these are quality kids who have extraordinary abilities to make an impact in the world.” Morris brings to scholarships and other AISD programs the same zeal and sense of purpose that mark all her other Rangers activities. “When she meets with a group of students or is leading a task force,” Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos says, “her energy is certainly contagious and helps to inspire those around her to do great things.”
She received the vice president title in 2011, but says it was really only to underscore her goal and those of the Rangers and Foundation – giving back to the community.
”And that means all the communities,” she says. “Maybe it’s the military. Maybe it’s women. Maybe it’s the African American or Vietnamese communities. It’s making sure that in what we’re doing … we’re touching the entire community. It’s a responsibility we bear.”