- - Monday, August 27, 2018

Nationals scout Bobby Myrick was at a McLean High baseball game a few years ago to watch Josh Sborz, who later became a high draft pick by the Dodgers out of the University of Virginia in 2015.

After Sborz was done pitching, Myrick was packing up to leave when the father of another McLean pitcher asked if he could stick around and watch his son throw. That pitcher was Phil Morse, 24, who six years later is in the Nationals farm system with low Single-A Hagerstown.

Morse was drafted in the 16th round by the Nationals in 2016 out of Shenandoah University, a Division III program in Winchester. Then this past June, the Nationals picked Morse’s younger brother, Colin Morse, in the 26th round after four years at Shenandoah.

“They both have strong arms,” Nationals minor league pitching coordinator Paul Menhart said. “We like both of them. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning their stuff.”

“Our dad always told us to lead by example and not by voice,” Phil Morse said. “As pitchers, we are both competitive and hate losing more than we like winning.”

The brothers were raised by a father, Phil, who retired from the U.S. Capitol Police and a mother, Lesley, a former nurse now in real estate.

Each has struggled this season, with some less-than-gaudy statistics.

Phil Morse began his pro career in 2016 in the Gulf Coast League and Auburn in the New York-Penn League. He played last season at Hagerstown. This season with the Suns, he was 2-0 with a 10.08 ERA.

Colin Morse reported to the Gulf Coast League after he signed in June and was 1-1 with at 5.63 ERA in six games, including one start. He was bumped up to Auburn, where he was 0-1, 5.59 in his first seven relief outings.

“It is all development (based),” Colin Morse said. “I am supposed to be learning. I definitely am.”

The brothers, who grew up in Vienna, are trying to become a baseball rarity: Major leaguers from a Division III college program.

But it has been done.

“Look at Jordan Zimmermann,” Menhart said of the former Nationals ace who was drafted out of a Division III school in Wisconsin.

Zimmermann is with the Detroit Tigers while another active Division III product in the majors is catcher Erik Kratz. Now with the Brewers, Kratz was a four-year player at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Outfielder Chris Heisey, who played for Nationals from 2016-17, went to Division III Messiah near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Despite the long odds, the Morse brothers remain positive. One thing they have going for them: Each has a college degree, which is not always the case for juniors drafted out of Division I schools.

Other brothers in the Nationals system include Bryce Harper and his brother Bryan, a minor league pitcher, and Nationals catcher and Clemson product Spencer Kieboom and Carter Kieboom, a top infield prospect.

“It is kind of cool,” Colin Morse said. “I am playing with all of those guys, from the SEC and Big 10. I realized pretty quickly it doesn’t matter where you come from anymore.”

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