Fuld gives message of hope to diabetics

With sports camp, Rays outfielder keeps kids in high spirits

By Bill Chastain / MLB.com | 02/04/12 11:20 AM EST

ST. PETERSBURG -- Nobody would ever suspect that Sam Fuld had Type 1 diabetes, based on the reckless abandon with which the 30-year-old Rays outfielder plays baseball. Only upon seeing Fuld injecting himself with insulin in the clubhouse does one realize what Fuld overcomes on a daily basis.

To Fuld's credit, he has refused to let Type 1 diabetes run his life, which is one of the messages he passed on to campers at the diabetes sports camp he hosted at the University of South Florida this weekend in partnership with the Rays, the USF Diabetes Center and USF Athletics, and Florida Diabetes Camps.
"Absolutely, [Type 1 diabetes] should not be a detriment," Fuld said. "There is me and eight other coaches who are Type 1 diabetics at this camp, and all of them have at least some college and some pro experience in their respective sports. That was the most important part of this camp -- not just having myself, but having some others so these kids can be around several college and pro athletes who have what they have."

Sam Fuld pitches to a camper during batting practice on Saturday. (Rays)

Instructors at the camp included Tampa, Fla., native and former tennis professional Genevieve King, former University of Florida and Indianapolis Colts wide receiver and three-time track and field All American Stacey Simmons, tennis professional Michael Findlings, former professional basketball player in Germany Lew Finnegan, former Nova Southeastern University basketball player Chad Bobik, former Jesuit High School baseball and football star David Ochotorena, current catcher for FIU softball Jenny Welch and walk-on kicker and soccer goalie at USF Renato Proia.
Fuld has a joyful manner about the way he conducts himself, and Saturday morning was no different as he waited for the camp to come to life. The night before, Fuld and the campers, who all have Type 1 diabetes and range in ages from 8 to 18, let their hair down with some pizza and bowling. Saturday allowed for more athletic-specific events at the USF Athletic District. Instruction was provided in baseball/softball, basketball, football, soccer, tennis and cheerleading.
Fuld, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 10, understands from his own experience what a positive influence the camp could have. When he was 12, Fuld met former Major League pitcher Bill Gullickson, who had Type 1 diabetes. That meeting enlightened Fuld to the fact that while his life had parameters, it did not have to be restricted.
"That's really the driving force behind the camp," Fuld said.
Just the same, Fuld understood that his camp was an ambitious undertaking.
"I've never done one like this before," Fuld said. "I've done baseball camps before, but I've never run a diabetes sports camp. So this is pretty much a brand new experience for me. It's easy to run regular baseball camps, but when all the campers are Type 1 diabetics, it's a lot more work. But it's something I've thought about the last few years."
With thoughts of staging the camp percolating in his head, Fuld brought up the possibility to some of the people he met last summer when he took a tour of the new USF Diabetes Center.
"They loved the idea, and we just kind of got the ball rolling from there," Fuld said. "We've been organizing it since August."
Medical supervision was provided by staff members from the USF Diabetes Center in the event of an emergency.
"We have a ton of staff on hand -- about 25 people -- and they've all been trained," Fuld said. "We have six sports offered -- six different stations at each sport where the kids will be required to check their blood sugar, and we'll have food at each station. It's pretty well equipped."
Fuld hopes the camp can become an annual event, and he also hopes it will increase awareness of Type 1 diabetes. He is grateful for everyone who pitched in to make the two-day event happen.
"We've had a lot of help," Fuld said.