Scouts do an excellent job at pinpointing talent every year, and while they help major league organizations understand what players are worth an opportunity in professional baseball, some players are still overlooked.
One of the main reasons for this occurrence is underestimating a player’s work ethic, as playing professional baseball takes more than just great ability, it takes a person willing to come to the ballpark everyday with the attitude to improve every aspect of their game to climb the ladder, and that’s just the mentality that Padres’ right-handed pitching prospect Bryce Morrow brings to the yard every night.
Initially, hoping for an opportunity in affiliated ball after a respectable collegiate career at Central Michigan University, but unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards, so the Michigan native needed to find another way to chase his childhood dream of playing in the major leagues. He did by beginning his career in independent baseball.
For many, playing independent baseball is an opportunity to get a taste of playing professionally. While indy ball helps players reach the next level, getting recognized by a major league organization in this route is challenging. But for Morrow, it was a risk worth taking.
Spending part of three seasons in the Frontier League split between the Traverse City Beach Bums and the Evansville Otters, Morrow really discovered his game. Finishing his Frontier League career with a 15-10 record to go with a 3.87 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 193 innings pitched.
“My experience in independent baseball was a lot of fun and exactly what I needed at the time,” said Morrow. “With that said I never envisioned starting my career that way. I think starting in independent ball added another reason to an already long list of reasons to work hard. The way I looked at it was my goal was not to just get out of indy ball, but to play in major league baseball and at that point I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter if I was in indy ball or affiliated ball. Hard work was the only thing that was going to get me to where I wanted to be.”
Impressing scouts with his 1.19 WHIP in the Frontier League, Morrow finally got the call he waited for when the San Diego Padres contacted the righty and told him they wanted him to report to their high-A affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm in the summer of 2013.
“It was an awesome day when I got the call from the Padres saying they wanted to sign me,” stated Morrow. “Most guys in affiliated baseball got drafted, but I never got to see my name called. So to me, the day I got told I was going to Lake Elsinore was a big day.”
“I do remember getting a call from my old pitching coach Brooks Carney and he said, ‘Good luck kid, but remember the real work starts now’,” he added. “As happy as I was that still was my mentality. This was a step in the right direction, but it’s still not where I want to be.”
His hard-working attitude worked wonders last season, as Morrow got an opportunity to finish up his campaign in the AA Texas League. Posting his best professional numbers against quite arguably the best hitters he had ever faced. The righty went 4-5 with a 3.13 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 89 innings of work, but his progression in AA showed the most in his advanced stats, as Morrow posted career bests in WHIP at 1.16 and K/BB ratio at 3.53.
Crediting a lot of his success in San Antonio to the help and mentoring he received from Missions pitching coach Jimmy Jones, a former major leaguer.
“It was great working with JJ. He was not just one of the most knowledgeable pitching coaches I’ve ever had, but he really understands how to pass it on to his players,” explained Morrow. “Another thing that’s great about JJ is the energy he brings to the park every day. You can tell he really enjoys the game of baseball. He’s a great guy to have on a coaching staff because he wants you to perform your best and he strives for you to get better. But at the end of the day, he understands baseball is just a game that’s meant to be fun.”
Finding success with his ¾ arm slot, the 27-year old pitcher uses four pitches in his repertoire, which includes: a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seam fastball, a slider, and a change-up. Always throwing from a lower angle in his career, the righty admits that he feels the way he delivers the ball really helps him get ahead in counts and keep hitters off-balanced.
“I’ve always had a pretty low slot. I think there are some definite advantages to having a lower slot than most guys and I really like the movement I get on my fastball from throwing lower,” said Morrow. “Also, I think lower arm slots aren’t seen by hitters as much, which hopefully gives me a little advantage when facing guys.”
Preparing to make a serious push towards the majors in 2015, Morrow is back home in Michigan taking on a busy off-season routine, which is designed to help every aspect of his game, so he can enter spring camp in tip-top shape.
“I always get home from the season and take three weeks off to let my body recover from the long season and then it’s back to work,” said Morrow. “I train at a great place in Grand Rapids called The Facility. The people there are great and they help me put together a comprehensive off-season program including weight training, arm care, conditioning, etc. I’ve also added 20 pounds this off-season by choice and I’ve gotten a lot stronger, so my off-season has been productive. As far as baseball goes I start throwing in December and slowly progress to getting on a pitching mound at the end of January.”
Making it to where he is in his career wasn’t easy for Morrow, but it’s possible with the right attitude and work ethic. The young pitcher has advice for any player trying to reach affiliate ball through the independent route.
“Refusing to give up is just the mentality I developed throughout all of the hurdles I’ve had to jump through and despite it all I always felt I could make my dream a reality,” explained Morrow. “You never know when one little thing like a new pitch or a different off-season routine can completely launch your career. I know when I’m done playing, I can say I gave it everything I had and I gave myself a chance to succeed. The biggest advice I would have for somebody trying to get to affiliate baseball from indy ball is to truly understand what it’s going to take to get to the next level and do everything in your power to make it happen. From there, if an opportunity never happens, it was out of your control.”
Be sure to follow Bryce Morrow as he continues to take the right steps towards his dream of playing major league baseball in 2015.