SAN DIEGO — It was sometime around the turn of the century, somewhere in Rohnert Park. John Morrow can’t recall the details.
The youth baseball team was gathered in a circle around the coach. You know the scene, a bunch of squirrely 12- and 13-year-olds.
Among them was Brandon Morrow, one of John’s three sons.
“It was the first team meeting of the season,” John said, “and the coach asked them, ‘Who wants to play in the big leagues?’ A bunch of hands shot up, a few didn’t. Brandon was one of those who didn’t raise his hand.”
So, turn the hands of time forward a full 20 years. The now 32-year-old Morrow awaits as the clock and his one-year deal with the San Diego Padres run out of time. The deadline is the end of the World Series and that will be either Game 5 (Oct. 30) or Game 6 (Nov. 1) or Game 7 (Nov. 2).
“I don’t know what will happen,” Morrow said in late September during the Padres’ final homestand. With eight-plus years of Major League Baseball service (with the Mariners, Blue Jays and Padres) under this belt, Morrow isn’t sure whether he figures in the Padres’ plans or not.
“The key to Brandon is his health,” said Padres manager Andy Green. The team’s general manager A.J. Preller, coming off a 30-day suspension by MLB, was making no personnel comments at all a week ago.
One thing Morrow knows for sure is that whatever his baseball future holds, he will be tackling it with his first-born child — 2-month-old William — along for ride. And it’ll be a shame if William (born Aug. 27) never gets to see his dad pitch in the majors. “Oh, I’m not too awful worried about that,” Morrow said. “I plan on pitching another four or five years so I figure he’ll remember some of it.”
San Diego Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley is pacing in the team’s dugout prior to another game, another opponent, another unique set of circumstances. He’ll do this 162 times before the season ends.
Brandon Morrow isn’t pitching for the Padres this particular evening. Balsley is asked how the team came to sign Morrow to a one-year deal and how he was doing so far after a couple of starting assignments.
Balsley gives one of those quizzical “you have to be kidding me” looks.
“He’s doing very well,” Balsley says. “When Brandon is healthy he is a really, really good pitcher. Remember, this is a guy who had 17 strikeouts in a game.”
One out short of glory
No story about Morrow would be complete without mentioning August 8, 2010. Tampa Bay at Toronto. About six years removed from Rancho Cotate High School and a couple of seasons from Cal, Morrow struck out 17 Rays batters and had a no-hitter in progress with two outs in the top of the ninth inning. On a 1-1 count, Evan Longoria hit a sharp grounder to the left of Toronto second baseman Aaron Hill.
“It barely hit off the top of his glove,” Morrow said. “It was a clean hit, good call.”
Did Longoria ever say anything to him about breaking up the oh-so-close no-hitter? “No, not a word,” Morrow said. “But to be honest with you, if I had struck him out I wouldn’t have said anything to him either.”