Sam Fuld honored at MLB Governor’s dinner for his work with USF Health and Type 1 Diabetes Sports Camp

Henry Rodriguez, MD, (left) medical director of the USF Diabetes Center, with honoree Sam Fuld. — Photo by Dave Scheiber

By Dave Scheiber, USF Foundation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Throughout his eight major league seasons, Sam Fuld was known for his dazzling defense and smart, all-out style of play that made him a staple of ESPN highlight clips and a fan favorite of the Tampa Bay Rays. But his impact has also been felt powerfully off the field through an ongoing partnership with USF Health.

The annual Sam Fuld T1D Sports Camp has been held since 2012 at the University of South Florida, providing an important outreach to children and families dealing with the life-altering disease of Type 1 diabetes. Each year, faculty and staff of the USF Diabetes Center provide medical supervision for the campers, ages 8 to 17.

Fuld, diagnosed with the condition as a child, has become a national role model and spokesman on the T1D front – with his USF camp at the core of his work. And on Thursday night, Feb. 15, the new member of the Philadelphia Phillies front office was honored at the Governor’s Baseball Dinner in an annual gathering of Major League baseball luminaries at Tropicana Field.

Fuld was greeted by a loud ovation from a crowd that included MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, a host of officials from the 15 clubs in Florida’s Grapefruit League and an array of past stars of the game. He began by expressing his gratitude for being recognized by MLB and the Florida Sports Hall of Fame, and thanking the team on hand that has played a key role in making the camp a reality for the past seven years: Henry Rodriguez, MD, the USF Diabetes Center clinical director;  Amanda Terry, PhD, research faculty member for the center; and volunteer camp coordinator Craig Bobik, a fellow diabetic who has assisted Fuld since the event’s inception.

But rather than simply say a few passing words, Fuld used the opportunity to educate and spread awareness about type 1 diabetes (T1D). Called to the podium by veteran Rays broadcaster Dave Wills, on a stage set up in right field at the Trop, he opened his remarks by noting, “I’ve been a diabetic since age 10, a little over 25 years now. I know that most of you are probably a little unfamiliar with Type 1 diabetes so bear with me.”

Fuld talks to some young campers before a sports clinic at the USF baseball field.

Among his points over the next five minutes: T1D is an unpreventable autoimmune disease that attacks the pancreas, robbing the body of its ability to produce insulin, which regulates blood sugar. The result is that those afflicted with the condition become dependent on insulin injections via pens or pumps, and a lifetime of daily finger pricks to test blood glucose levels.

“I have my insulin pens with me all the time,” he explained.  “I’m also constantly monitoring my blood sugar, on average seven or eight times a day where I prick my finger and maybe almost six times a day when I’m injecting myself.”

Fuld, a mathematics and statistical standout from Stanford University, did some calculating earlier in the day and came up with some eye-opening results: “I guess in my T1D career, you could call it, I’ve now administered a shot about 55,000 times and I’ve pricked my finger about 68,000 times.”

But harder than the daily regimen of injections and finger pricks, Fuld continued, is the constant vigilance and diligence required to manage T1D, which can be lethal if left unchecked.  “It’s an emotionally and mentally taxing disease, so a lot of what we do at the camp is just give these kids a break. We create an environment where they feel comfortable and they’re normal, and they get to just share experiences and learn from one another.”

Fuld spoke about the variety of sports the camp offers, as well as the counselor/coaches who have T1D themselves. “They’re incredible role models. And I’m excited to continue the camp here for many years to come. I have no visions of stopping until we find a cure, and I’m really excited to be part of the T1D community in this great Tampa Bay area.”

The comment was greeted with loud applause as Fuld left the stage, soon greeted by guests wanting to pose for photos or talk to him about his message. Meanwhile, Wills added over the mic: “I’ve been doing Rays games for a little more than 13 seasons, and I’ve been around the game for about 25 years and all I can say is baseball needs a few more Sam Fulds. Sam is one of my favorites of all time, and I wish him nothing but the best as he moves into the front office of the Phillies.”

USF Health pediatric endocrinologist Verena Jorgensen, MD, was among the USF Diabetes Center staff providing medical supervision at the 2018 Sam Fuld T1D Sports Camp held in early February at the USF Tampa campus recreation facilities. 

Though he’ll soon be relocating to Philadelphia with his wife and four young children, Fuld will be back at USF come February 2019 – ready to provide a weekend of fun and normalcy for a new round of campers living in the challenging world of T1D.

To learn about how to participate in the 2019 Sam Fuld T1D Sports Camp at USF or the USF Diabetes Center, visit health.usf.edu/medicine/diabetes.