Fuld embraces life as a role model

MVP Fuld embraces life as a role model

Sam Fuld is at home in New Hampshire now, finally able to take a breath and look back on an extremely successful and fulfilling 2007 season. It began in February when he reported to the Cubs' Spring Training home in Mesa, Ariz., and ended in the same place in mid-November as he capped things off with a historic Arizona Fall League performance.

But there was more to come as a result of Fuld's AFL stint, which netted him not only the MVP Award but the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. MLB.com auctioned off two pieces of memorabilia from AFL alumni -- autographed balls from Albert Pujols and NL MVP Jimmy Rollins -- to raise funds to go to a charity of the Stenson Award winner's choice. As a result, $500 will be donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund, a perfect bit of holiday news for Fuld, who was diagnosed with the disease when he was 10 years old.

"It means a lot, no matter what time of year," he said. "It is appropriate to be doing it this time of year. It's an honor. Every little bit counts and hopefully, it opens some people's eyes and continues to keep the ball rolling in helping to find a cure here."

Fuld was named the 2007 Stenson Award winner in recognition of doing the kinds of things that usually go unnoticed: working hard, playing the game the right way and showing valuable leadership skills. He told MLB.com when he was at the Winter Meetings in Nashville that in many ways he cherishes that as much, if not more, than the MVP award he got for his on-field performance. That the Stenson Award also has a charitable part fits in well with the characteristics it rewards and makes it that much more special to Fuld.

"It's a unique award," he said. "It's something I take a lot of pride in. It's icing on the cake to use the award toward a good cause."

In the Chicago organization, Fuld isn't alone in promoting that cause. Cubs great and broadcaster Ron Santo has had Type 1 Diabetes for about 45 years and has served the JDRF has honorary chairman of the Walk to Cure Diabetes in Illinois. The JDRF clearly recognizes the importance of having those in the spotlight give attention and support to the cause of curing diabetes.

"We were very pleased to hear that Sam Fuld chose JDRF as his charity of choice for his auction," said Marc Bassewitz, President of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's Illinois Chapter. "We are always grateful for role models like Sam who share the same plight as three million other Americans who suffer from this devastating disease and raise diabetes awareness to help us turn research into reality. Sam and JDRF have one mission in common, and that is to find a cure, as fast as possible."

Diabetes is now a part of Fuld's everyday life, something he had to adjust to immediately when he was diagnosed. Slightly undersized, a senior sign out of Stanford -- he's got a degree in economics -- and a 10th-round draft pick, he is used to proving people wrong and finding success on the baseball field. Playing with diabetes is just one more thing for the overachiever to overcome.

"It was hard right from the beginning, but I got used to it pretty quickly," Fuld said. "It is the type of thing, it's never going to be easy. There are so many variables that can affect your blood-sugar levels. I'm now used to being very conscientious about it. As long as I continue to do that, there's no reason why I can't continue to succeed."

Fuld's success led to his big-league debut in September and the invite to the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .402 in 29 games with 10 steals and a 1.118 OPS. That could lead to Fuld getting a shot at winning an outfield spot in Chicago this spring, something he's already preparing for while trying not to be overly stressed about it.

"I'm always worried," he said. "I'm worried about being in shape enough. I do realize there's probably a little more at stake this time. I'm trying not to psych myself out, but it's natural for me. The season didn't end, I played nine months straight. This hasn't been very typical for me, so I'm learning as I go."

One thing he learned a long time ago is the kind of example he can be. Whether it's by directing the funds from MLB.com's auction or taking a moment to speak to a child with diabetes, Fuld fully understands and embraces what kind of impact he can have as a professional baseball player. "I know how important it was for me," he said. "I met Bill Gullickson a couple of years after [I was diagnosed]. To be able to speak with him, even though it was brief, it inspired me. I realize how important that is and I try to do that as much as I can."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.