Majoring in Baseball

May/June 2010

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Majoring in Baseball

Courtesy Chicago Cubs

After a few years plugging away at his job, Sam Fuld angled for a big promotion this spring. Fuld, a former Cardinal baseball star, went to spring training in February with the Chicago Cubs, looking to grab a spot on the team's Opening Day roster for the first time. Cubs manager Lou Piniella has praised Fuld, but the 28-year-old wasn't complacent. "I want to prove every day that I'm worthy of being here."

Fuld graduated from Stanford as the baseball team's all-time leader in runs scored and was drafted by the Cubs organization. The speedy center fielder worked in the minors, receiving rave reviews from scouts, and he played a handful of games in his first call-up to the majors in 2007.

Fuld's big break came last year. The Cubs recalled him from his minor-league team in Iowa to replace an injured player in June, and Fuld spent almost half the season in the bigs. He compiled a .299 batting average in 65 games, smacked his first major-league home run and endeared himself to Chicago fans with daring and acrobatic defensive plays. On more than one occasion, Fuld crashed into the ivy-lined brick wall at Wrigley Field after snagging a fly. His damn-the-torpedoes style led to nagging injuries to his right thumb and wrist, but Fuld says his aggressive approach, one of his greatest assets, is non-negotiable.

"I always do the little things and that often includes running into walls and fences," Fuld said in a phone interview. "It's just how I play."

Fuld, who's 5-foot-10 in an era that prizes XXL ballplayers, has said in the past that tenacity just happens when an undersized kid competes against older athletes: He was playing against high schoolers by age 12. (The economics grad was whizzing through high school math by that time, too.) There is also the matter of a daily fight with a chronic disease. When he was 10, Fuld was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He took it in stride and has self-administered two insulin shots per day ever since. "It's a daily challenge, and you never have it completely figured out. It's like hitting a baseball." There used to be a perception that diabetes and athletic achievement were mutually exclusive, but Fuld tries to be a living counterexample. "I take pride in taking as good care of myself as possible."

SCOTT BLAND, ’10, is an intern at Stanford.

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