As a young baseball enthusiast growing up in the quiet, family friendly community of Rohnert Park, Brandon Morrow could often be found night after night playing catch outside his home with his father on the lawn, where he frequently had to be coaxed inside by his mother for bedtime after a long evening of tossing around the baseball, something he could work on for hours.
Morrow has carried this passion and commitment for the sport with him throughout his pitching career, helping him overcome relentless injuries and ultimately carrying him to the Los Angeles Dodgers — where as a relief pitcher he helped the team secure a spot in the 2017 World Series.
The Rancho Cotate Alumnus started playing baseball with the local Rohnert Park Pee Wee baseball team for third to fourth-graders and continued into Babe Ruth youth baseball and then onto varsity baseball in high school.
Morrow’s father John, says even before he started on the pee wee team playing catch outside was something the father son duo always did together.
“We’ve always played catch and he’s always enjoyed it… It was always for the fun of it and I can remember when he was 10-years-old he enjoyed the competition of being a pitcher. We’d go out in the front almost every night. We used to play a game of pluses and minuses and if he got a minus three he would have to go into the house and get ready for bed and mom would come out saying, hey it’s bedtime! So the better he got the more I had to make it harder for him,” John said of how he and his son would play outside.
Morrow’s father coached Brandon throughout his youth baseball days from Pee Wee to Babe Ruth up until high school. During a phone interview with John, Brandon was described as a player who was a diligent pitcher who worked hard, but blossomed into his skills later in life.
“He was never a star in his youth until he got into his junior year in high school when he really started to blossom. He was good enough to be on an all-star team, but he couldn’t be a starter for an all-star team. When he was 15 he got onto the Babe Ruth All Star team and at that point his baseball career so to speak started,” John explained. “So it goes to show you that he was a late bloomer and just kind of started to grow and went past everybody when he got into his junior and senior years of high school.”
Throughout his high school career Morrow racked up 84 strikeouts over the span of 63 innings and gained an average ERA of 6.01. He also earned several awards and recognitions such as first-team all-league, first-team All-Redwood Empire, first-team All North Coast Section and second-team all-state honors, according to Morrow’s high school game statistics.
Chad Brewster, who was Morrow’s baseball coach in high school, said it was like Christmas morning when first seeing Brandon’s pitching skills on the mound.
“When I got the first opportunity to watch him pitch I was shocked because he threw in the low 90s as a 17-year-old kid, so it was exciting for me as a coach. It was like Christmas morning for me when I saw what he could do,” Brewster said. “He had movement on the ball and was pretty easy to coach, I just had to steer him in the right direction and let him do his thing.”
Despite his skills and natural knack for pitching, both Brewster and John painted a picture of a player who never acted as a star, bragged, or rode a high horse when it came to playing ball with the skills he had. Brewster said Morrow seemed to be more on the quiet side of things, he was always focused and acted as the “silent leader.”
“Brandon was a little bit more on the quiet side as a high school kid, but you can tell he had focus and drive. He always was sort of a silent leader and when it came down to practice and leading the team he always led by example… But he also had a goofy attitude like any normal high school kid, but when you put him on the mound it was a different gear for him. He had laser like focus,” Brewster said.
In 2003, he was set to go to UC Berkeley to study American Studies after turning down an offer from the Anaheim Angels in that years Major League Baseball Draft, however right before finishing high school he was diagnosed with type one diabetes.
However, this did not stop Morrow, and John said it was something he embraced later and used it to set a positive example for athletes and kids who also have diabetes, disseminating the message that this cannot stop you from doing what you love and living to the fullest.
“He’s had to fight diabetes since he was 18-years-old, but he’s been an example for all the type one diabetics out there, he’s a member of the Juvenile Diabetes Association and has been in their publications and when he was with the Padres he had his picture up in Times Square saying, this is who I am. It was the message that I can do anything,” John explained.
After playing for the UC Berkeley Golden Bears, Morrow then started his MLB career by getting drafted by the Seattle Mariners at the number one pick in 2007. In one August 2009 Mariners game, Morrow pitched a four pitch shutout, retiring 10 batters in a row early on in the game against the Iowa Cubs
He then moved onto the Toronto Blue Jays for four years. Once that contract was up he signed up as a free agent with the San Diego Padres.
Yet with success, his MLB career has also been riddled with a string of shoulder and ligament injuries over a span of almost five years, costing him game time. His first injury occurred when he was on a four-year contract with Toronto, according to John. Morrow had pitched several shutouts but then tore an oblique muscle and was out for two months and the following year he had a pinched nerve in the forearm of his pitching arm.
“He lost a couple months that year and then the year after that he tore a ligament in his index finger in May and missed three months in the middle of the season,” John said. By that time Morrow’s contract with Toronto was up and he became a free agent with San Diego. “He got five starts and pitched really well and then his shoulder flared up and he ended up having shoulder surgery… After rehab and after getting ready to come back he got sick with Valley Fever.”
Morrow was sick for several weeks and lost about 15 pounds, which he eventually had to gain back after experiencing the phenomena like fungal disease that becomes airborne when underground construction kicks up fungal spores.
After overcoming all the injury and sickness tribulations, Morrow signed with the L.A. Dodgers in January of 2017 and was called up to play in May.
When asked what it was like as parents to watch him play in last week’s game against the Cubs, John said he and his wife were excited but tried to remain calm and composed, a trait he says is what Brandon takes to the field to succeed.
“It was pretty intense... They won the first game, not easily and went into the second game and won that game. It’s so exciting and we are so excited for Brandon because he’s in his 10th major league year and it’s the first time he’s been on a team that’s won something,” John said. “We have a lot of confidence in Brandon and we were holding on pitch by pitch and in order for him to be successful in where he’s at, he’s got to have the calm and confidence and we show that when we are rooting for him as well.”
John, despite originally being an Oakland A’s fan and Bay Area sports fan, says having to change his alliance to rooting for so many different teams has softened the blow of having to become Dodgers fans and despite that, he is simply proud of what his son has overcome to play the sport he loves.
“He’s been through a lot and it is really special that he’s made it to the World Series after going through everything he has gone through to get there,” John said, his voice wavering with emotion, “and God we are really proud of him.”
And to sum it all up John said of his son’s accomplishments and skills, “Brandon just taught himself how to be explosive.”