Ride of a Lifetime
By Ricky Zambrano, Thomas (Ga.) Associate Athletic Director
Crawford, Texas - Thomas University (Ga.) alumni and former Night Hawk baseball player, retired Army Staff Sergeant Mike Morabito, took the ride of a lifetime when he was invited to participate in the 3rd Annual Bush Center Warrior 100K alongside former President George W. Bush this past May in Waco, Texas.
Held each spring at the extensive trail system of the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas, the event features service men and women wounded in the global war on terror riding alongside the former president for a 100 kilometer mountain bike ride. Part of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, the W100K highlights the bravery and sacrifice of warriors and recognizes organizations that support America’s heroes.
“Riding with the president we went to war for, you can’t say much more than that”, said Morabito. “There aren’t any words that can describe what we feel as warriors who did what we did and have the president that you went to war for invite you to ride mountain bikes with him”.
Morabito, like many others, looked at the world we live in differently after the horrible events on the morning of September 11, 2001. After playing a couple of seasons of minor league baseball, he enlisted in 2003 knowing that it was time to follow his heart and serve his country.
The native of Miami, Fla. served 10 years and left with numerous commendations including the Purple Heart, Army Commendation w/ “V” Device for Valor during Combat Operations in Ramadi, Iraq, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Iraq Campaign Medal among others. Morabito comes from a long line of military service. His dad is a Vietnam Veteran and his brother Joe, whom he rode side by side with in the W100K as a Warrior guest, is a Veteran of the US Navy.
Morabito served in Korea and then Iraq during peak war time. He was injured during a routine security detail in Iraq when his seven-ton Marine truck was hit on its left side by an Iraqi Police officer in a marked IP vehicle whose bomb detonated, severely injuring all 19 soldiers on board. His spinal cord was compressed and he suffered second and third degree burns to his hands and face. In total he underwent three knee surgeries and a nose surgery as a result of the road side bombing.
As a Night Hawk he put together one of the most prolific careers in the program’s history. Morabito set single season marks in runs scored (61) and on-base percentage (.556), while finishing second in program history for batting average (.478), slugging percentage (.904) and in a two way tie for home runs (15). He currently holds the career mark for runs (150) and sits in a three-way tie for home runs (21). Morabito is one of only three Night Hawk baseball players to ever receive NAIA All-America honors, being named to the Second Team in 2001.
Morabito holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and is not the only Thomas alumnus in his household, marrying his college sweetheart, the former Karen Pike, who as a TU softball player was named an NAIA All-American in 2001. The couple, along with their two daughters, recently moved to Tallahassee, Fla. so that he can finish his Master’s Degree at Florida State University.