It is perhaps the personality combination that serves as the best foundation for a Major League Baseball® pitcher: Cool, calm and collected paired with diligent, scheduled and on task.
For San Diego Padres® pitcher Brandon Morrow, that combo serves best for a special kind of MLB® pitcher as well: one who lives with type 1 diabetes. Morrow, who wrapped up a quality showing at spring training and heads into his first full season with the Padres, should know. He was diagnosed with diabetes in his senior year of high school, already well on the path to his goal of playing in the majors. Having just signed to play with the University of California Berkeley (Cal), he decided day one not to let the surprising diagnosis derail his dream, his plans and yes, his quality of life.
“I’m really easy going,” Morrow said on a recent practice day. “Not much bothers me. My line of thinking does not fall that way.” So when he was diagnosed, he worked at learning the details of what he needed to know to play well with diabetes on board. That included keeping his blood sugar level as steady as possible, fitting blood sugar checks into games, and searching out a role model which he found in Jason Johnson, another pitcher living with T1.
A steady routine
Ten years into his major league career, the plan that Morrow built back then works well for him each game day, and in life in general.
“For a 7 p.m. game day, I wake up around 10 a.m., check, and eat breakfast at 10:30,” he said. On game days, Morrow likes to stick to foods he is familiar with to remove any guesswork. “I get to the field around 1 p.m., check, have lunch there, check again and then relax.” The rest of the day involves some stretching, breaks, more checks, and then game time. That’s when Morrow’s set-in-stone plan means the most.
“I have a snack just before the game; usually a protein bar. The carbs are on the package so there is no guessing there. And I know a good complex carb will break down slowly, which is what I need,” he said. Morrow, who gets his insulin through a pump, removes it for the game; he then checks before and after each inning pitched, making tiny adjustments of either carbs or insulin as needed, tweaking as the game progresses.
“Baseball is not a real cardio sport, so my blood glucose tends to go up during a game,” he said. “I just keep an eye on it and give insulin when needed.”
That routine, he believes, may be why he can say that, in 10 years of the majors, diabetes has never impacted his play. “I know almost to the minute what I’ll be doing and what I need to do,” he explains. “So I’m always ahead of things and always prepared.”
Morrow does remember one person stressing when he was newly diagnosed though: his mom. But she sent him off, six months after his diagnosis, to a new life in college with dorms, schedules and college baseball to figure out. “I know it was hard on her but she let me do it. And as she saw me get my head around it, she relaxed.”
Morrow has dreams and goals. For this season, he is hoping to beat out the bad luck of injuries he’s had in the past few seasons and stay healthier and playing well. He also hopes to serve as a role model to kids living with diabetes who dream of being athletes. “There is nothing you cannot do,” he believes. “Just find your plan and make it work. With good management, diabetes should never stop you from doing anything. I know parents worry, but they should know too: their kids can do this. I did. And I am. The work I put in towards it is worth it. It really is.”
Moira McCarthy is an acclaimed writer, author, and public speaker who has shared her story – and lessons – on raising a child living with type 1 diabetes in the media, through books, and on her popular blog, despitediabetes.com. McCarthy has appeared on CNN Live, Good Morning America and Fox News. She was recently recognized as the JDRF International Volunteer of the Year. Her six books include the top-selling The Everything Parent’s Guide to Children With Juvenile Diabetes and her latest Raising Teens With Diabetes: A Survival Guide For Parents. McCarthy is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
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© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience