Pennington School senior Tony Morency finds solace in playing baseball, but he has found his purpose in other areas, including helping those dealing with drug addiction.

Life is good for Tony Morency these days. So much so that it would be easy to understand if he was all wrapped up in himself. Most seniors get that way as they enjoy their final year of high school while at the same time preparing for what they hope will be an exciting future.

Morency is embarking on his final baseball season at the Pennington School after two consecutive seasons of hitting .356. He has a 4.11 grade point average and is a Cum Laude Society inductee for being in the top 10 percent of Pennington’s senior class. He was the Red Raiders Delaware Valley National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete honoree, and has already been accepted to The College of New Jersey, Clemson and St. Joe’s. He is still waiting to hear from Penn, Princeton and Villanova.

With everything going his way, why should Morency worry about anyone else?

But he does.

He is concerned about those less fortunate than himself, people who have become addicted to drugs. Morency created a drug awareness organization on the Hamilton School Board entitled STAART (Students Taking Action And Responsibility Together). He is a member of Inner City Redevelopment and a volunteer for Kevin Meara’s City of Angels foundation and the Heroin/Opiate Task Force of Mercer County.

Getting free time for himself is probably the most difficult thing in Morency’s life. And yet, on a rare open Friday night, he and his father attended a City of Angels’ board meeting in Hightstown in order to become further educated. He also became a little dismayed.

“Aside from the people on the board, my father and myself, there was nobody else there,” Morency said. “I thought ‘Wow!’ I don’t want to say not enough people care about it, but just maybe not enough people are involved in finding a solution for those who are affected by this problem.

“I definitely think getting more kids involved is important. They have a City of Angels baseball team. Even if it involves just having my friends go with me to the next board meeting, or play for the baseball team, it’s important to spread awareness. That’s something I’d like to achieve. Even though I’m leaving Pennington, I’d still like to get a representative of City of Angels to speak there and help get more kids involved.”

Morency’s concern over the problem came after a friend he played baseball with died of a drug overdose. He quickly realized how grim the issue was.

“Especially with kids playing sports,” he said. “They get injuries, they are prescribed painkillers, they get hooked on that by abusing it. That leads to the next thing, then the next thing. It’s a real serious problem in people’s lives.

“I’m involved with organizations where I’m fairly educated on it, but in schools with kids my age or younger, they don’t know much about it. I feel schools definitely need to start educating kids more on that. I know they have the DARE program, but I don’t feel that’s enough to really teach the kids to avoid it, and to help people who do have that problem. Maybe a private hotline in a guidance counselor’s office, where they can get some advice on their situation privately.”

If opposing pitchers knew what a nice guy Morency was, they might groove every pitch to him this spring.

OK, that might be a stretch. And besides, Morency wouldn’t want anything handed to him. His work ethic is what got him to where he’s at.

After a standout career for the Nottingham Little League and Nottingham Babe Ruth League, Morency attended Steinert the first semester of his freshman year before transferring to Nottingham with his brother Vince for the second semester. He was mostly a position player but began pitching more frequently in 8th grade.

Morency made the Northstars varsity baseball team that spring and actually pitched a complete-game victory over Ewing in his first start.

“With something like that, you’re just looking to go out there and do your best, and if you get beat, you get beat,” Morency said. “That gave me a lot of momentum for my pitching career.”

Unfortunately for the Northstars, it wouldn’t help them. Morency transferred to Pennington for his sophomore year but almost didn’t get in. Despite having a 4.0, somehow the registrar’s office had him with some Bs and Cs.

Mike Coryell, who was the Pennington baseball coach at the time and still coaches Morency on the Hopewell Valley Post 339 legion team, knew that Morency belonged.

“There was actually some doubt on the part of school officials as to whether he could handle the workload,” Coryell said. “He answered that by not only starring on the football and baseball teams, but posting a straight-A average.”

Morency arrived at Pennington as a corner infielder but the Red Raiders needed a shortstop. Morency put the team first and made the switch. He posted solid numbers and earned second-team All-Prep honors.

‘I look at baseball like life in general, you’ve got to work to get better at things.’

Morency then played legion and helped Hopewell to its first Final 8 state tournament berth since the 1990s by hitting two homers in the district opener and producing several extra base hits as the tournament moved along.

Last year, he had another big year at the plate and also went 4-1 on the mound after losing a number of one-run games as a sophomore. He was a Carpenter Cup nominee, and his goal this year is to make the Carpenter Cup team, bat over .400 and help Pennington to a Prep state title or a Mercer County Tournament title.

His desire grew more intense for a championship after watching his former Nottingham team win Central Jersey Group III last year.

“I realized after I transferred over when Jimmy Maher became their coach, that would have been an awesome opportunity to play under him with how successful he’s been or how great of a coach he is,” Morency said. “I don’t look at it as anything I regret or anything like that. I definitely think Pennington was a good fit for me. It was in the back of my mind that, ‘Maybe I could have been part of that.’ But seeing that kind of made me want to do it even more so at Pennington. It served as motivation to do that at the program I’m playing with.”

Coryell is no longer with Pennington but is still anxious to see how Morency will do this spring as well as playing for him in the summer.

“Tony’s power numbers were down last year, but after watching him in winter workouts, I think he is poised for a huge senior year,” the coach said. “I think his greatest strength is his tenacity, and desire to excel. Some want to be a star, but don’t have the work ethic to see it through. Tony definitely has that work ethic, and that’s going to carry him to greatness long after his baseball days are through.”

Morency, who wants a career in business or accounting, hopes those days are not approaching. Of the colleges he is involved with, only TCNJ has recruited him for baseball. If he goes elsewhere, he plans on trying to walk on.

“Baseball has always been the thing I can do if I‘m upset or mad about something; I can just get it off my mind,” he said. “It’s definitely grown as a passion in my life. I look at baseball like life in general, you’ve got to work to get better at things. There’s a lot of lessons in baseball that will teach you to work with a team and really make a lot of good friendships and things like that. Baseball has kind of helped structure my life where I’d be successful with managing my time and toughening me up for the realities that life is going to throw at me.”

Despite his honors and accolades, which are so plentiful they can’t all be listed here, Morency is not one of those guys who tries to stand out in a crowd.

“Everyone’s first impression of Tony is that he is quiet,” Coryell said. “But that reserved demeanor hides an intense desire to succeed, both on the ball field and in the classroom.”

And while he has a bright future, Morency is not abandoning his concern for those struggling with addiction. This summer he plans on taking courses to be a life coach in order to be able to be there for addicts who may be having a tough day and need to talk about it. He also thinks about being a City of Angels board member someday.

“This isn’t something I’m going to do for a year and then call it quits,” Morency said. “Being around it definitely gives you a different perspective on life. You realize you may be going through a tough time but some people have it worse than that. It helps me see the bright side of the situation rather than the negative side.”

And for a guy whose life is seemingly basking in the brightness, Morency is all about helping those struggling to emerge from the darkness.