He’s the “Little Mascot” of the Houston Astros.
And the nickname is entirely appropriate for the 4-year-old Martin County boy whose childhood has taken shape in and around the development of the Astros’ new spring training home, The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Morgan McNicholas was born April 6, 2012, just one month after his father was hired by Astros owner Jim Crane to help find a new spring training home for his team.
As the project took shape, Tom McNicholas, president of the statewide public affairs firm McNicholas and Associates, worked long hours, including many in his Stuart home, preparing documents and presentations for dozens and dozens of meetings with government leaders.
By 2014, as the Astros shifted their focus from a site in Palm Beach Gardens to one in West Palm Beach, the project “really started to click with Morgan,’’ said his mother, Krissy McNicholas.
They say kids pick up cues from their parents. Morgan, just 2, quickly became a keen observer and listener as his dad worked around the house, nearly “on the phone day and night with the teams,’’ Krissy said.
He started parroting buzz words: “Ballpark”… “Giles” (the first name of the Astros’ general counsel, Giles Kibbe)… “Art” (the first name of the Washington Nationals’ partner, Art Fuccillo).
“I would be playing with the kids or trying to get them out the door,’’ Krissy recalled, “and Morgan would pull a plastic toy phone out of his pocket and tell me, “’I have a call with Giles right now.’’’
It was Kibbe who coined the nickname “Little Mascot.’’ One day, the Houston lawyer stopped by the McNicholas house to pick up Tom for a lobbying trip to Tallahassee.
“Once Morgan saw Giles walk in, he ran into our bedroom, rolled out a suitcase that Tom had left at the end of the bed and immediately started throwing his clothes in it,’’ she recalled.
“He packed pullups and his favorite stuffed animal. He really thought he was going to ‘Tallahatchee’ with them.’’
To help himself prepare for presentations and meetings, Tom McNicholas often sat with his three kids, including 3-year-old Mackenzie and 2-year-old Madelyn. He would show them photos and walk them through the construction process of The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Morgan quickly became an expert on construction equipment, telling his parents how the bulldozers were preparing the 160-acre site for the two teams.
In December, his dad built a sandbox in the back yard. “Morgan immediately went to work and built a ballpark in the sand,’’ Krissy said.
This past fall, Morgan brought his dad in for Show and Tell in his pre-school class. At Morgan’s request, Tom offered the class a kids’ overview of the ballpark project and read the book “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.’’
“Morgan also wanted to make sure the kids knew exactly who was going to be playing there, so each child received an Astros or Nationals hat, compliments of Morgan,’’ Krissy said.
The McNicholas family will attend the first game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on Tuesday when the Nationals host the Astros.
Morgan has been checking off the days on a calendar at home marked “Countdown To Opening Day.’’
“I get reminded every day that it is coming,’’ Krissy said. “He can’t wait.’’