Dylan Covey's truly life-changing decision

Dylan Covey is back to normal strength after Type 1 diabetes caused him to lose much weight

When the MLB draft deadline struck last August and the Brewers failed to sign first-rounder Dylan Covey, an outstanding right-handed pitcher, the only information Milwaukee scouting director Bruce Seid could give reporters was that the decision didn't come down to money.

His words weren't meant to deflect blame. Deciding to attend college at San Diego wasn't about money at all. It was about Covey getting acclimated to being one of approximately three million Americans with Type 1 diabetes. It also was about Covey, who has regained his strength, excelling on the diamond while dealing with his disease.

"The fact that I'm close to home and dealing with this is very helpful," Covey said. "It's much easier to be where I am now without having to fly somewhere from treatment. I typically go to the doctor at UCLA, so my dad can just come by, pick me up, and we go."

Though Covey, a freshman at USD, is getting accustomed to life with diabetes, he wasn't always in such good spirits, and clarity wasn't always present.

His bout with the disease began as a high school senior. Despite having some success on the mound, it was evident there was something wrong as this season progressed. Covey had a string of bad outings and wasn't reaching the potential scouts were expecting from a slam-dunk first-rounder.

Some scouts and family members thought Covey might simply be tired or putting too much pressure on himself. Even Covey's trainer wasn't convinced it was related to any medical issue despite the fact he lost 35 pounds and some velocity during his senior campaign.

"I was really trying hard to get strong at that point, so my trainer just assumed that I was losing so much weight because of how hard I was working out," he said. "I wasn't really sure what to think."

That meeting with his trainer eased Covey's tensions for the time being. And when the draft arrived in June, there weren't any major concerns from the scouts as evidenced by the Brewers selecting him 14th overall.

He was expected to be a relatively easy sign for the Brewers.

"I thought he was very signable, and I certainly didn't think he was headed to college," San Diego coach Rich Hill said. "Then came the days leading up to the deadline."

Like most high-profile draftees, Covey waited until the end of the signing process to make his decision on signing with the Brewers or attending San Diego.

The decision was made shortly after the Brewers administered a blood test a few days before the draft deadline. The results came back. Dylan Covey's life was changed in an instant.

"They said there was something in the test, the physical, and they recommended I go to the doctor to get it checked out," he said. "It was a blessing in disguise they found out I had diabetes before the deadline."

"I would've never known I had the condition if not for the blood test."

The day after being informed, Covey was confused and looking for answers that simply weren't there. He wasn't even sure what having Type 1 diabetes meant, and he had a very important question on his mind: Would he be able to continue playing baseball at a high level?

That day, Covey reached out to Blue Jays right-handed pitcher and California native Brandon Morrow, who also found out he had Type 1 diabetes following his high school senior season, and before attending college at Cal.

"He gave me a lot of insightful information, telling me things like it's going to be hard at first, but you just get used to it,” Covey said. “And once you get used to it, it's just something that becomes an important part of your life. He was the only guy that I talked to about it, and it was a huge help coming from a big league pitcher."

Since then, Covey has become more versed in athletes dealing with Type 1 diabetes. He has found out that triathletes compete with diabetes, and that Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is dealing with the same disease. NBA player Adam Morrison, who also has diabetes, even offered to give Covey advice through a former Gonzaga coach that's now at USD.

"I think Dylan has figured out this is a very manageable situation for him, and one where he can thrive. But there's an adjustment period," Hill said. "It's all about finding out what works for the individual from a nutritional standpoint."

Months have passed since Covey was diagnosed with diabetes and there's plenty of significant progress to report.

Covey arrived at USD last fall at 6-foot-2, 182 pounds, and finished the fall at 195 pounds. Now, with the season around the corner, Covey is in fantastic shape at 200 pounds.

He also has regained strength in his arm thanks to a rigorous workout plan. Covey was up to 94 mph in the fall and displayed a power curveball and an improved changeup.

"He's showing no ill effects of this thing at all right now," Hill said. "He has his color, stamina and endurance back right now. He has absolutely taken off since beginning our strength program."

While things are normal on the field, Covey is still adjusting to his new, more complicated life off the field. The Toreros freshman has his own personal trainer involved in almost every phase of his life.

Covey goes through a physical routine with university trainers each day, and they monitor his blood sugar level, his health and other nutritional aspects. The trainers also help administer insulin shots. Covey also is constantly in contact with an on-campus nutritionist that gives him advice on the proper foods to eat throughout the week.

"I've been forced to eat a lot healthier because of this. I have to be more aware of how I feel each day," Covey said. "Before, if I got sick, I figured, hey, I'm just sick. But now, if I get sick, it's kind of like, uh oh there might be something wrong."

Covey has come to terms with his disease in the months since he was officially diagnosed. He is involved with the Juvenile Diabetes Association and participated in a charity walk and had a booth at the event with his USD teammates.

Back on the field, Covey had a productive fall and is locked in as one of USD's weekend starters with the 2011 season beginning Feb. 18. He's considered one of the nation's top freshmen along with fellow first-rounder and Florida pitcher Karsten Whitson.

Covey gave up millions of dollars when he spurned the Brewers for a chance to learn to live with Type 1 diabetes as a student-athlete at San Diego.

Now healthy again, Covey could increase his draft stock with three productive seasons for the Toreros, much like UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole has done after turning down the Yankees three years ago. Perhaps when Covey's time to get drafted comes again, the Brewers will again come calling.

Whether they do or don't, he'll always have Milwaukee to thank.

They saved his baseball career. And they might've saved his life.