Aug. 31, 2016
By Jon Cooper | The Good Word
Michael Sorrow knows about living life in the shadows and, more importantly, breaking out of them, although it was never for personal gain.
He learned under his father, Michael, who was a star right-handed pitcher for Georgia Tech from 1969-72, played in the New York Yankees’ farm system and was inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame in 1979.
Then, once he got to Georgia Tech, he found himself playing the same position as future Tech Hall of Fame shortstop Nomar Garciaparra (class of 2004), who’d play 14 years in the majors, and was one of MLB’s premier shortstops for nearly a decade.
Being in the shadows didn’t bother Sorrow. Instead, it made him work that much harder to get out of them. It was a labor of love.
“Honestly, I just enjoyed playing every day. I loved the game, I loved working at it,” said the Fayetteville, Ga., native. “My feeling was, regardless of whether you were an upperclassman or an underclassman, you treat people with the utmost respect, you work hard and you show people that you’re willing to work. That was the way I approached every day.”
Sorrow’s work was recognizable and respected, and will be honored on Oct. 14 when he is inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame at the annual Induction Dinner at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center. He will become the 68th baseball player and the ninth amongst teammates from his four years to be inducted, including former head coach Jim Morris, who recruited Sorrow to Tech.
“Michael was a valuable team member of our first College World Series team in 1994,” recalled current Jackets’ head coach Danny Hall, who was in his first season on the Flats in `94. “While possibly being overshadowed by Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, Jay Payton, and Brad Rigby, he hit his first home run of the year against Cal State Fullerton to help secure a 2-0 victory. In 1995 and 1996, he led young teams to the NCAA Regionals each year, capping it by being an All-American in 1996 as well as a draft pick of the San Francisco Giants. Michael will join his father Mike in the Hall of Fame. It can’t get any better than that.”
Actually, it can, as Mike will present Michael at the ceremony.
That’s fitting, as Michael’s induction will make the Sorrows only the second father/son tandem to be inducted into the Georgia Tech Athletics Hall of Fame. The other is Chappell Rhino (baseball, Hall of Fame class of 1974) and son, Randy (football, 1981). The Sorrows also be only the fifth family unit inducted into the Hall, joining brothers Mike (basketball, `80) and Ted Tomasovich (baseball, `86) and Jonas (track, 2010) and Tomas Motiejunas (track, 2012) and cousins Pat (football, 1991) and Ken Swilling (football, 2001).
Michael will be part of an immensely talented class of eight, also including football legend Calvin Johnson, basketball great and current Atlanta Hawk guard Jarrett Jack, baseball All-American Eric Patterson, golf star and current PGA Tour player Nicholas Thompson, track and field All-Americans Lynn Houston Moore and Brendon Mahoney, and ACC tennis champion Jaime Wong.
“Honestly, I’m totally blown away by this class that we have of inductees this year,” Sorrow said. “What tremendous talent.”
To blow away Sorrow speaks volumes about the class, considering the collection of talent he was around at Tech and even the talent he grew up with from day one as a baseball player.
His father Mike chalked up an 18-10 record, with a 2.40 ERA, struck out 248 in 247 ⅓ innings, and held the school single-season record for ERA (1.07 in 1971) until Matthew Gorst broke it last spring. He still ranks in the top five in school history in career ERA (2.40, fourth) and complete games (17, tied for third), and in the top 20 in strikeouts (248).
Dad would provide the base for his son, pitching to him in a makeshift backyard batting cage they made by sewing together cloth from huge rolls of material used to make laundry bags that the senior Sorrow had collected. He’d show him the ropes and occasionally trip him up.
“He obviously took it easy on me to begin with but as the years got a little bit up there he would show me his stuff,” Michael recalled, with a laugh. “Once I hit a couple of hard line drives off of him, he’d throw me a pitch I hadn’t seen before. He used to have a pretty crazy split-finger, forkball that he would have me spinning in the dirt up there, swinging and missing.”
After playing at Woodward Academy and with the East Cobb Yankees, where he’d play under former Jackets’ coach James Beavers, Sorrow chose to come to Georgia Tech, recruited by Morris, but broke family ranks by choosing infield over pitching. Both decisions came with his dad’s blessing.
“He never put pressure on me to go to Tech. He wanted it to be my decision,” Michael said. “I looked at some different schools but deep down, I, obviously, wanted to go to Tech. It was always a dream of mine to go to Tech and play baseball there.”
The same was true as far as positioning.
“We talked about it a good bit, and I gave it a lot of thought,” he said. “Honestly, I just enjoyed playing every day. I loved the game, I loved working at it. I did pitch through high school but I didn’t want to pitch and sit for three days. I wanted to go out there every day and play. That was my passion, the ability to go out there and do that every day.”
Michael’s passion and willingness to work hard in his four years (1993-96) helped him become an integral piece of Tech teams that compiled a 175-77 record, (61-33 in conference play), made the NCAA Tournament four straight years and, in 1994, reached the College World Series for the first time in school history, advancing to the championship game.
“I had the chance to play with some amazing stars. With [Jason] Varitek, Nomar, Brad Rigby, Jay Payton and those guys,” he recalled.
But Sorrow felt the depth and the complimentary players that weren’t necessarily the stars played a key role in those team’s successes.
“We all knew our role on the team, and we did everything we could to help the team,” he said. “That was the mentality that we all had as a 25-member group, which I think really put us apart. It’s really fun to look back on the great teams because it includes guys like (second baseman) Scott McIntyre and (outfielder) Matt Barr. You have so many others that were team players that may not have gotten the notoriety that those other guys did. I was one of those.”
Always team-first, Michael puts one of his biggest hits — and one of the biggest in program history, his blast in game one of the `94 College World Series, the first round-tripper by a Jacket in CWS history — in a team context.
“I was locked in, and I can, to this day, envision that pitch, Mike Parisi throwing me a slider and what that ball looked like before I made contact,” he said. “We faced him twice out there and had faced him previously earlier in the season in a tournament. He was a great pitcher. I definitely remember that one moment, just really feeling good out there in Omaha at the plate. It was just neat, from a team perspective. We just wanted to win. We didn’t care about our individual stats at all. We had different times of the year where different people would pick us up and maybe that was my time in Omaha.”
The Jackets would reach the championship game, falling to Oklahoma. To show what it took to beat the Jackets in Sorrow’s four years, each year the team that ended Tech’s season reached the College World Series championship game, with three of them winning it all.
The 1994 season was memorable for Sorrow, but it was just a precursor as his best years were still ahead.
After batting .258 as a freshman in 41 games (33 starts) and .248 as a sophomore in 54 games (35 starts), primarily spelling or filling in for Garciaparra, Sorrow would start every game of his junior and senior seasons, 124 in all. Given the opportunity to start, he batted .347 in 1995, with 82 hits, with 13 doubles, five triples and four homers. He scored 63 runs and drove in 41, and earned second-team All-ACC honors.
He’d save the best for last, hitting .369 with 92 hits, 18 doubles, 11 homers, 66 runs scored and 47 RBI in 64 games, all career-highs, his senior year. Sorrow also hit his ninth and 10th career triples. He still ranks in the top 15 in school history in that category. His 219 games played also are top-15. He would be named first-team All-ACC and second-team All-America.
He graduated with a .322 career average, 238 hits, 47 doubles, 19 homers and 129 RBIs and was a shining example of how hard work and patience can pay off.
“One of the things that I really prided myself upon was consistency and work ethic,” he said. “I just stayed at it. I knew my time, at whatever point, would come. We had so much talent there just wasn’t an opportunity other than DH’ing. But I was able to gain some confidence after Omaha and playing every day was a huge help. I worked a lot with coach Jeff Guy, our hitting coach, to make some alterations of my approach at the plate and swing and really gained some confidence. I really just kept it going throughout both my junior and senior season. One of the things I’m most proud of was to see on-going consistency and growth through the career from that perspective.”
Sorrow is especially proud of Omaha and Tech’s 11-4 record, five-game series winning streak, and 3-0 record in season series against Georgia (there was one split) — he proudly mentioned a photo hanging in Woodward Academy of him slapping a tag on then-UGA catcher Jeff Gray.
But In the end, the biggest thing for Sorrow was and still is the people.
“More important than anything that I remember, all the stats, is the relationships,” he said. “That’s most important to me today.”
He can’t wait to rekindle relationships with his former-teammates and coaches on Oct. 14 at the ceremony. He’ll also be well-represented by family, including his mom, and dad, his wife, Meredith, and their three children, sons Michael III and Griffin and daughter, Perrin.
In his 20th year at Green Consulting, a financial services education company — when he’s not coaching Griffin’s baseball team (he coached Michael’s team until this year, when he moved up to 6-4-3 Academy in Marietta) — Michael is gracious about the induction ceremony.
“I’ve got a lot of people to thank and me being separated out on an individual basis, it’s honestly out of my personal comfort zone,” he said. “I’m much more of a team player than anybody looking for individual accolades. That’s how I approached each and every day as a teammate at Tech. I’m honored to be inducted on an individual basis but it’s really what we did as teams that I feel puts me on the map. That’s what I enjoy being a part of.”