USD freshman P Dylan Covey

Amy Farnum,

As a high school senior, Dylan Covey was known for his dominating pitches, but what the young right-hander never expected was the curve ball that life threw back at him.

Covey, now a freshman at the University of San Diego, was a highly coveted prospect by Major League Baseball teams after putting together a 7-1 record and 0.40 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 70.2 innings pitched during his senior season at Maranatha High School in Pasadena, Calif. And, on draft day last June, Covey and his powerful arm were selected in the first round by the Milwaukee Brewers with the 14th overall selection.

The 2010 California player of the year had every intention of signing a professional contract and forgoing a collegiate baseball career. But just a few days before the signing deadline, Covey was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Certain things started to make sense. He had written off a 35-pound weight loss during his senior season to an extra rigorous workout regimen. And, he was sleeping more than 12 hours a day, but teenagers are known for liking their sleep.

Still, he had a commanding presence on the mound.

“I never really noticed it at all – it was really, really gradual,” Covey said. “When I found out, my doctor told me I was so used to feeling bad that I couldn’t tell at all. There was never really a point when I started feeling bad – that’s why it was such a shock when I found out I had diabetes. I didn’t have any sudden symptoms.”

So, in the midst of making an important career decision, Covey was now faced with learning how to deal with a life-changing disease.

When USD head coach Rich Hill heard the news about Covey’s health, he never expected it would change Covey’s mind.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Hill said. “I was thinking (professional athletes) Jay Cutler, Brandon Morrow and Adam Morrison all have Type 1 diabetes and it would be a very manageable situation. I didn’t think there would be a hiccup in this thing.”

Still, Hill talked to Covey’s father just in case college was still in the cards.

He’s taken the attitude that he has a gift and he’s going to use it and not let a disease or some kind of setback derail what he wants to do in life. It’s been pretty awesome to watch an 18-year-old kid have that attitude.
-- San Diego coach Rich Hill

“I tried to reassure him if Dylan was going to come to college that USD would be the best environment for him,” Hill said. “We would do everything above and beyond in every facet of his life, and the coaching staff would take him under our wings like he was our own son.”

In the end, Covey decided to be a Torero.

“We didn’t really know much about diabetes or what to expect,” Covey said. “My family was a little hesitant at first (about) what to do – it definitely had an impact on the decision. It was probably the main reason why I didn’t sign because I felt it would be a lot easier to come to school and deal with it than going somewhere else. Home is not very far from school.”

“It wasn’t about the money,” Hill said. “I think it was about what was going to be best for a long career in the major leagues and a long and healthy life. It wasn’t about a bonus or high draft pick, but a long-term plan why he decided to come to college.”

Once the decision was made, Covey had to start figuring out how to get his diabetes in check, and began meeting with his doctor and a nutritionist to digest the information. A lot of it was about scheduling.

“I couldn’t wake up 10 minutes before and walk to class and then grab a bite to eat on the way to practice,” Covey said. “I have to wake up and eat a good breakfast, and then eat a solid lunch before practice. At first it was a big adjustment, but I think I’ve gotten the hang of it. I have to make sure I’m staying on top of things and staying healthy.”

Covey also reached out to Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Brandon Morrow, who was a first-round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2006 after attending the University of California. Morrow also found out he had Type 1 diabetes when he was a high school senior.

“He said the first year is going to be hard because everything is changing, and the insulin you’re going to be taking will keep changing,” Covey said. “But once you get into the phase where it is just consistent, then it’s easy and just an everyday thing you have to do. That was encouraging, especially because he was one of the top picks when he came out of college.”

When Covey arrived at the USD campus last fall, Hill did think he looked a little thin and listless, but things have turned around in just a few months.

“I’m sure the stress of the situation was catching up with him but we just reassured him that we were in it together and we were going to get it right,” Hill said. “He’s totally blossomed. He put on about 13 pounds, his color came back in his face and he has a bounce in his step. On the mound, he’s been the guy that we saw when we recruited him and shows no effects of having this. You would never know that he has Type 1 diabetes.”

Covey, who throws in the low 90s, feels that his velocity is back where it should be, and he has been working on refining his curve ball and changeup.

“I’ve been working to make them a lot better than they were in high school,” Covey said. “You can get away with a lot in high school. When you throw a pitch for a strike in high school, it will be a home run here. You have to fine tune all of your pitches and mechanics and make sure everything is good as it can be.”

Hill says that Covey has the best stuff on the USD pitching staff, and will be a Friday or Saturday starter for the Toreros, who are the preseason favorite in the West Coast Conference.

“He’s taken the attitude that he has a gift and he’s going to use it and not let a disease or some kind of setback derail what he wants to do in life,” Hill said. “It’s been pretty awesome to watch an 18-year-old kid have that attitude. He’s met it head on.”

San Diego hosts No. 4 Vanderbilt for a season-opening three-game series beginning Feb. 18.