Fuld Getting it Done

Is Sam Fuld a lock for the major leagues? His manager at Double-A this season, Pat Listach, for one thinks so. Fuld got one step closer this week with a late-season promotion to Triple-A Iowa.

"Sammy's been a pleasant surprise," said Listach, Fuld's manager at Double-A Tennessee this season. "I'm really surprised. I knew he could play, but Sammy is going to play in the big leagues. No doubt about it."

The left-handed Fuld () batted .291 at Double-A this summer in 77 games. He was the quintessential leadoff hitter for Tennessee with nearly more walks (32) than strikeouts (33) – a recurring theme in his career.

Fuld has been an excellent hitter at all levels in baseball, both as a collegiate player at Stanford, where he was a two-time All-American, and with Class A club's Peoria and Daytona, and now Tennessee in the Cubs organization.

"It certainly is not easy," Fuld says of his biggest asset: getting on base. "It doesn't come easy to me. I sweat about it all the time and I'm always working on it, but it's obviously a big part of the game and something I take pride in. My goal has been to always get on base no matter how – whether it's walks, hit by a pitch or getting hits. That's my primary goal as a hitter."

Fuld's on-base percentage with the Smokies was .371, and he posted an on-base plus slugging percentage of .764.

"He finds a way to get on base," Listach said. "Anything you do offensively to help yourself and the team get on base is going to get you up quicker. He does the things that are going to get him there. He has (almost) more walks than strikeouts. That's quite a trait to be remembered as a guy who (can walk) more than he strikes out."

"He's always on base, he's got a good eye, he's going to give you good at-bats, and that's what you want from a leadoff hitter," Listach added.

Fuld also has some pop in his bat with 19 doubles, two triples and two homers this season.

"He knows how to play the game, when to take a pitch, when to work the count, and when to go ahead and swing away and juice the ball," Listach continued. "He's strong enough that he can hit the ball out of the yard occasionally. He's a gap, line-drive type hitter. He knows what type of hitter he is, and he doesn't hit a lot of fly balls."

Fuld's arrival with the Cubs was delayed a year. He was drafted by Chicago after his junior year at Stanford, but he opted to return to school.

He put his senior season to good use by earning his bachelor's degree in economics from one of the most prestigious schools in the country.

It was a coast-to-coast journey for Fuld, who hails from Durham, N.H.

"They started recruiting me my junior year (of high school)," Fuld said of the Cardinal. "They got a chance to see me play in a showcase out in California and they invited me to visit my senior year. I went out there and loved it. I was looking for a good school to go to and good baseball, and it was a pretty easy choice for me."

Fuld had another choice to make after the Cubs selected him in the 24th round of the 2003 draft.

"There were a bunch of pros and cons and just weighing the two," Fuld said. "A big part of it was knowing I could go back for my senior year and get my degree. It was a real tough decision – it was tough to turn down the Cubs – but luckily they drafted me again and it worked out pretty well."

Indeed, the Cubs picked Fuld again in 2004 – this time in the 10th round.

"I'm glad they did because he's a joy to be around every day," Listach said. "The injuries have hampered or slowed down his play with us, but he's still a major league ballplayer for me and I think it's just a matter of time before he gets there."

Fuld missed the 2004 season because of a shoulder injury. He played all of 2005, but missed the end of 2006 because of a hip injury. He ended up needing an operation for a sports hernia after that season.

Fuld's Double-A debut in 2007 was then delayed after he tweaked an oblique muscle in Spring Training.

"I hurt the oblique right before the end of Spring Training," Fuld said. "It looked like I was all set to come here and then unfortunately I had that happen, and I missed the first 15, 20 games here."

As for the sports hernia issue, which affected his hip, groin and lower back, Fuld said he is fully recovered.

"It was a pretty easy surgery and it only took a couple of months to recover from, so I really don't feel effects from it now," he said.

The 25-year-old Fuld does have one ongoing medical issue that he has to deal with every day: Type I diabetes.

"I take insulin shots twice daily and check my blood sugar several times a day. Especially when I'm playing, it's important for me to regulate it pretty carefully," Fuld said. "It's such a routine at this point. It's habit, but it's something I'm always thinking about. I'm always watching what I eat and when I eat and how much."

"It's tricky. Even though I've been doing it for 15 years now, it's still a challenge every day," Fuld added. "There are a lot of variables. You don't eat the same thing every day, and you don't do the same amount of exercise. There is so much that goes into it. It's a daily struggle, but it's something I am definitely used to."

Listach said Fuld handles the medical matter with ease and could easily be a role model for other young athletes with diabetes.

He also handles the macabre humor of the clubhouse.

"He can take a little bit and we dish it out pretty good about his insulin shots," Listach said prior to Fuld's promotion to Iowa. "We always give him stuff about putting needles in the refrigerator and shooting up in the clubhouse. He takes it all in stride. He's a good guy."

Sam Fuld in batting practice with Double-A Tennessee.

The promotion of Fuld breaks up one of the best defensive outfields in the Southern League with Jorge Cortes in left field and Tyler Colvin in center.

Colvin returned to the lineup Wednesday after a week off because of a minor shoulder injury. Cortes spent 11 days in Iowa this season before returning to the Smokies on July 26.

"Jorge impresses me with his instincts," Fuld said of his former teammate at Tennessee. "He's got incredible instincts and a great arm."

"Tyler's a great athlete," Fuld added. "He's impressed me and he can play any one of the three and Jorge, too. Essentially, we kind of (had) three center fielders out there and anytime that's the case, you know you're going to have a pretty solid defensive group out there."

Fuld primarily played center field for the Smokies, but he also filled in in left and right when necessary – particularly after Colvin's arrival in Double-A.

One thing Tennessee has done all summer is find a way to keep winning despite the roster turnover, as players have shuttled among Daytona, Tennessee and Iowa.

The entire infield for the Smokies is new now since Jake Fox, Matt Craig, Carlos Rojas and Joe Simokaitis have all been promoted.

"It's amazing," Fuld said. "So many new faces. I guess it says something about our system in the first place, how deep it is, and (that) we can win with any number of different guys out there. That says something about Pat and the coaching staff. Baseball is a funny game. You don't always need the best talent out there to win."

Now, Fuld is the one promoted and Tennessee will have to find a way to replace him on and off the field.

Fuld was considered one of most-respected and well-liked players in the Tennessee clubhouse along with Donald Veal and Simokaitis.

"He'd be number one," Listach said of Fuld. "He's always in a good mood and always works hard."

Fuld says hard work is the only way that he will succeed in baseball.

"I think I'm someone who certainly doesn't even come close to being the most athletic guy out there and not the most athletically gifted guy. But I take pride in my work ethic; try to play hard every day; be consistent and do some little things that you may not be able to see in a box score," Fuld said.

"I try to be a cerebral player; think ahead; try to get on base any way I can and just be solid defensively and try to have good instincts out there."

A Stanford education certainly indicates that Fuld can be a cerebral ballplayer. His manager has no doubt that Fuld will make it to the big leagues, but Fuld thinks further down the road.

"I've certainly thought about it," Fuld said. "You never know when baseball is going to end. If I could stay in baseball somehow, that would be pretty cool. I think there are some pretty interesting jobs out there outside of playing. (Front office jobs have) always interested me. I could see myself doing that or I could see myself doing something completely different and using the economics degree. At this point, I don't really know."

Fuld is now in his third year of pro ball and is thus far pleased with his progression as he steadily moves through the Cubs' farm system.

"I knew going into it that it could be a slow climb through the system," Fuld said. "My goal has been to improve every year and hopefully move up every year. Patience is really the name of the game. It can take awhile to get up there, but as long as I show signs of improvement, that's the main goal."

As far as the ultimate destination of Chicago goes, Fuld said his chances of getting to the pinnacle of his sport depend on multiple factors.

"I don't think it's any one thing," Fuld said. "I think if I continue to play well and hit well ... obviously the bat is what generally gets you to the big leagues, and I think my defense is solid and it's always going to be there. As long as I can hit and do some little things (like) steal a few bases, I think that there should be a good chance hopefully."

Fuld has six stolen bases in nine attempts this season. For his career, he has 46 stolen bases in 63 attempts, so he has more than adequate speed on the base paths.

Listach said that it is Fuld's total package as a player that will punch his ticket to Chicago, and then listed a litany of reasons as to why.

"In my opinion, he's the best outfielder we (had) defensively," Listach said. "He can play all three. He's a very intelligent player. He plays the game the right way. He plays the game hard. He plays the game smart. He steals a base when you need a base stolen, not necessarily when it's 5-0 or a lopsided score. He does it when the team needs it.

"He makes the plays. He throws to the right bases. He's a left-handed hitter. He can run. He's a prototypical leadoff hitter in the big leagues. Whether or not he'll play every day up there, I don't know. But I know he'll get there and he'll stay because of his versatility. His work ethic is off the charts."

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