A Brandon new world
Health issues under control, Morrow now a top-10 prospect
When Brandon Morrow was a sophomore in high school, he was once told that he would be one of the top 10 pitchers in the country.
Morrow was in Fremont, Calif., for a two-day tryout at an under-18 Bay Area baseball program called NorCal Baseball and the second to last pitcher to throw. Rob Bruno said he saw something special in Morrow.
"He was only a sophomore, [he was] 6-foot-2 and weighed a buck-sixty on a good day," said Bruno, the general manager for NorCal. "The first pitch out of his hands was 86 miles per hour. The ball was just exploding out of his hands."
Morrow's father, John, said that he and his family owe a lot to Bruno for his continued confidence in Brandon.
"He mentioned that [he thought Brandon was going to be a top-10 pitcher] a couple of times," John Morrow said. "I was kind of naïve about it at first. As it turns out, Rob was right."
Now Morrow is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior at Cal Berkeley who throws in the mid to high 90s and is listed as a possible No. 4 pick by MLB.com.
"Brandon was a very quiet kid," said Bruno, who has also coached such players as Dontrelle Willis, Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins at NorCal. "But once he got on the mound, a light switch went on and he became a competitor. He's always had a quiet confidence about him."
Morrow, who has one start left, proved himself to be one of the top 10 players this season as he went 7-3 as a starter with a 1.74 ERA.
But before his success at Cal, Morrow was a tall, skinny kid from Rohnert Park, Calif. who went to Rancho Cotate High School and always had trouble gaining weight.
"He was complaining about losing weight and he ate all the time," said his mother Sharon Morrow. "He was fatigued rather early in running sprints during practice.
"[Brandon] had a friend that did a report about diabetes and he told Brandon that his symptoms sounded a lot like diabetes."
Morrow went to the hospital to see if his friend was right and he was sent to the emergency room when doctors found out that his glucose level was at 715. A normal level is about 100. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in January of 2003.
But the Morrow family didn't look at the diabetes as a problem. Instead it was looked at as finally knowing what was causing the problems.
"All of the symptoms stopped," said Brandon Morrow, who has gained 30 pounds since attending Cal. "I went back to normal with the [insulin]."
John Morrow added "he hadn't felt that good in three months."
Morrow didn't feel sorry for himself after he received the news. Instead, he persevered.
"He took to it really well and he became a competitor out of it," John Morrow said. He really didn't miss a beat and he dealt with this illness like it was just a part of life."
"I remember when Brandon was a freshman in high school and my wife took Brandon to get a physical ... the nurse couldn't draw blood because Brandon was pulling away from the needle. Two years later, he was diagnosed with diabetes and he had to give himself shots."
When Brandon Morrow pitched during his freshman year at Cal, he kept track of his glucose levels in between innings and gave himself shots as needed. In 2005, he switched to an insulin pump and keeps it in his back pocket.
But after Morrow was diagnosed, he didn't just step foot onto Berkeley and start dominating the Pac-10. He started out as a wild pitcher with a 6.07 ERA during his freshman year and 9.36 ERA as a sophomore.
"He was going from 90 mph to 99 mph and having trouble pitching over the plate and trouble harnessing his fastball," said pitching coach, Dan Hubbs.
Hubbs said that Brandon threw 86-91 mph when he started at Cal and his fastball jumped to 96-99 during his sophomore year.
As a result, he had 20 walks in 25 innings that season and Morrow missed the second half of the season with a sore shoulder.
"My arm was just really bothering me because the acceleration muscles in the back of my shoulder weren't strong enough for the load they were taking," said Morrow. It would just ache."
So Morrow gave his arm a much needed rest, but he continued to develop and train. In the summer of 2005, he was invited to the Cape Cod League in Massachusetts.
Morrow -- who throws a four-seam fastball, split-finger fastball, slider and changeup -- proved that he belonged among the best in the country, striking out 24 batters in 14 2/3 innings with a 1.84 ERA and three saves as a closer.
Back at Cal, Morrow's head coach, David Esquer, couldn't believe what he was hearing about Morrow.
"I remember getting reports back from the Cape that Brandon was touching 99 mph," Esquer said. "[I didn't believe it] to be honest because nobody throws that hard. He established in his own mind where he was in relation to the rest of the country."
Esquer said Morrow's improvement at Cape Cod translated to success at Cal.
"There has been a tremendous difference between this year and last year," Esquer said. "His confidence is just so much higher. When he is on the mound he commands attention."
Morrow's coaches said that he is reserved player, his parents said he is a quiet, humble kid and his teammates said that he is the same person he was when he came to Cal.
"The thing about Morrow is that he stayed steady with his personality even before all of his success, he didn't become arrogant or cocky," said Garrett Bussiere, catcher at Cal. "He has always been the same guy since the first day I met him my freshman year. He hasn't changed, which is very admirable."
Ryan Quinn is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.