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Early choice suits Grain Valley grad Garrett Morrow

Cody Thorn
Special to The Examiner
The Examiner

Garrett Morrow had some fortunate timing when it came to picking a college.

The former Grain Valley High School standout is wrapping up his sophomore year at State Fair Community College and signed with NAIA school Columbia College to play baseball in 2021.

The early signing turned into a blessing in disguise when the remainder of his final season of junior college ball was wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some other teammates found colleges to go, some sophomores hoping to impress coaches in the spring never got the opportunity on a full scale at the Sedalia-based school got to play only 15 games.

“You are trying to get recruited all over,” Morrow said of going to a junior college. “You have intense workouts and every rep counts. It is a way different environment at State Fair. You are constantly running, we were almost more of a track team than baseball. When I was looking at colleges, I asked what workouts do you do? What time do you wake up? What do you do in practice? When you get to a four-year (school) you made it as a JUCO player. Every four-year will be nothing compared to the junior college experience.”

The left-handed hurler pitched in only six games this year for the Roadrunners but gained an extra year of eligibility. So, he will be a sophomore on the baseball diamond for the Cougars, while being a junior academically.

He plans on using the extra year of playing baseball to earn a master’s degree in business administration. He is currently taking two classes this summer – accounting and principles of management.

Columbia, a member of the America Midwest Conference, started recruiting Morrow last year. He threw in 11 games, got two wins, while sporting a 3.71 earned run average.

The Roadrunners, who had a program-record 35 wins in 2019, reached the Region 16 title game last year before falling to Crowder College.

The recruiting process continued in the summer for Morrow.

He played for the Sedalia Bombers in the MINK League and got into nine games, striking out 15 batters in 15 1/3 innings. He didn’t get a win or a loss, but got one save.

“The MINK League, you are playing 30 games in 30 days and it is the most grueling league you can play in,” Morrow said of the summer collegiate league based in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, which canceled its 2020 season because of the virus. “It is the closest to being like a minor leaguer or a major leaguer. In the playoffs, I pitched five games in a row and every game counts.”

His summer coach was Craig McAndrews, who is the pitching coach at Columbia College. An assistant on the Bombers was Jordan Dey, another assistant coach at Columbia.

He went on a visit to the school – which is close to the Missouri campus – in the fall and committed in October. The school formally announced the signing this month.

In the aftermath of committing to the Cougars, interest actually picked up for Morrow. Northwest Missouri State, Truman State and William Woods also expressed interest in the lefty.

“If I would’ve waited (to commit), who would’ve known what would’ve happened,” Morrow said.

This spring, Morrow was second in games pitched (six), while racking up one save in 7 1/3 innings. He fanned seven and had a 4.91 ERA, but had four scoreless outings and gave up four earned runs

“Garrett was our most reliable arm out of the bullpen,” Sedalia coach Judd Kindle said. “I believe that is the role he will fit into next year for Columbia College.”

He joins a Columbia College squad that reached the NAIA World Series national championship tournament for the first time in program history last spring. This year, the Cougars were 16-5 this spring before the season came to a halt.

Out of high school, Morrow had only two offers – State Fair and MCC-Maple Woods.

Ironically, both of the junior colleges called on the same day and made an offer just minutes from each other. After talking with his parents, Morrow phoned Kindle – who played at Missouri State before a stint in independent professional baseball – to commit.

Morrow started four years for Grain Valley, splitting time as a starting pitcher and left fielder. He was an all-Missouri River Valley Conference West and an Examiner All-Area pick all four years of high school. He made the all-district team his final two years with the Eagles.

He played summer baseball two years – both for Blue Springs Post 499 Fike – and was part of a state championship American Legion team. He didn’t play for Fike the final two years of high school, so he wasn’t on a lot of coaches’ radars.

Morrow realized how competitive junior college baseball was the fall after graduating from Grain Valley. Each day, there was a 4:50 a.m. wakeup, every morning usually, for running. He survived “hell week” that featured a timed-mile, a two-mile Indian-style run and then another mile – mostly when it was still dark outside.

The players also had to perform 1,500 jumping jacks. None of the players spoke the first 50 jumps and then between Nos. 51-100, only odd numbers were voiced, and if a count was wrong, everyone had to start over.

While the workouts were tough, Kindle also taught the civic side of playing ball, which included trash pick-up days around town or reading to local elementary students.

“I am way more disciplined and it made me a better person,” Morrow said. “It is grueling. I’d do it again. I learned valuable lessons in JUCO and I would take that opportunity again and definitely go back to State Fair.”

As of now, Morrow is scheduled to play in the Ban Johnson League for the NKC Apartment Giants this summer.

The team is coached by Jeremy Lufft, a Blue Springs High School graduate who played baseball at Rockhurst. The season for the Giants – who Morrow was slated to play before an offer to go to the Sedalia MINK League team came up last summer – starts on June 22.

Practices for the summer collegiate team begin on June 2 in Parkville at the new Creekside Baseball Complex, which is managed by Jackson Brett, the son of Royals great George Brett.