Brandon Morrow, Major League Pitcher for the San Diego Padres, has had Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes since he was a senior in high school.
“I would never think that diabetes affects my ability to locate a fastball, or anything,” said Morrow, who has a 3.15 ERA through his first three starts this season.
How does he manage it? Hours before he throws the first pitch, Morrow will begin regulating his blood sugar levels, as he does every day. He pricks a finger, providing a small blood sample to a glucose meter. He’ll repeat the process several times, including before and after his pre-game bullpen session.
About an hour-and-a-half prior to his start, he’ll eat a protein bar.
“It has the carbs I want in it,” Morrow said. “I know it’s going to break down slowly and it’s going to fill me up a little bit.”
Morrow wears an insulin pump, which supplies small amounts of insulin throughout the day and more when necessary, but he sheds it when he pitches. During his freshman year at Cal, Morrow tried wearing the pump during a couple of games but found the device, clipped to his belt and connected to a catheter, uncomfortable. So he continues checking his blood sugar after each inning, providing insulin as needed.
“It’s almost like a subconscious thing you don’t really think about,” Morrow said. “You come back in, check your blood sugar, prick your finger, get some blood and be on your way.”
Morrow realizes that Type 1 diabetes, typically diagnosed in adolescence, presents a more difficult challenge for someone lacking his experience.
“If someone comes up or leaves their information, I try to reach out to them,” Morrow, 30, said.
“Whenever someone wants to talk about it, I’m very open about it. I like to help people feel like they can still do what they want to do. They have diabetes, which can be life-changing, but at the same time, if they’re under control, it can be the same.
“You can use it to your advantage,” Morrow added, “because you’re more conscious of what you’re putting in your body.”
Reserved by nature, Morrow has become one of professional sports’ more visible advocates for diabetes awareness. He’s involved with JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) and often has spoken to aspiring big-leaguers with diabetes. His Twitter stream largely consists of retweets of articles about diabetes and messages of encouragement to those affected by the same condition.
“It’s nice to show another part of the country, get comfortable there and bring awareness,” said Morrow, who previously played in Toronto and Seattle. He added with a chuckle: “I guess it wasn’t our country in Canada, but they do a lot with JDRF.”
In San Diego, Morrow already has found a similarly good-natured ally. Peter Seidler, the Padres’ lead investor, discovered he had Type 1 diabetes at 32, an usually late age for a diagnosis. Years earlier, one of Seidler’s younger sisters was diagnosed with the same disease at age 10.
“As adults, we’re grown-ups and can generally deal with stuff,” Seidler, 54, said. “But a 7-year-old who has to prick his finger and put his blood on a machine, it’s uncomfortable to do that in front of classmates or on the playground. When they can see Brandon Morrow do it, it just makes a difference. …
I have a ton of respect for how he’s achieved what he has, and just the whole way he’s dealt with it.”