Fuld Making the Most of Opportunity

Sam Fuld has been known to throw caution to the wind, and that was never more obvious than during the seventh inning of last Saturday's Cubs game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Leading 7-3 with one out in the inning, Fuld () broke on a hard-hit ball to deep right field and slammed into the ivy-clad brick wall at Wrigley Field, robbing Pirates leadoff hitter Nyjer Morgan of extra bases.

Magnifying the play all the more, Fuld instantly gathered himself after the collision and then non-hesitantly fired to first base for an inning-ending assist.

Teammates waited for Fuld at the top steps of the dugout.

Scott Eyre, whose pitch had led to Fuld's collision, offered to buy Fuld dinner.

"He said he got a phone call or a text message from his dad saying that he needed to take me out to dinner. I'm going to hold him to that," Fuld said.

Awe-struck fans looked on and gave Fuld a standing ovation while raining down chants of "SAM-MIE! SAM-MIE! SAM-MIE!" for the first time in ages.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella managed a simple, "Nice catch."

Broadcasters spoke of how young players may not be as fully aware of the hard surface shielded by the ivy as many veterans are.

Fuld was aware of it all right; he just didn't seem to care.

"I was definitely aware and hadn't really tested it out," Fuld said prior to Tuesday's series opener between the Cubs and Florida Marlins in Miami. "There were a few balls in the past couple of weeks during batting practice where I think had I might have gone after, I could have run into the wall. My plan was that if that happened, I was going to save it for the game.

"There was no way that I was going to shy away from that wall," declared Fuld. "If I had to go full-speed into it, so be it. Maybe I was a little sore the next day, but honestly it was not too bad."

Fuld's aggressiveness in the field is nothing new, of course, and it might explain why he has had a few bumps and bruises over the years.

The 25-year-old outfielder has undergone surgery twice in his career – once to repair his shoulder and once to repair a sports hernia injury.

The latter operation came last off-season in Philadelphia at the hands of Dr. William Meyers, the same surgeon who repaired NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb's hernia in 2005.

Like McNabb, Fuld is no stranger to hard hits, and he doesn't mind them.

"I know that with the way I am physically, I'm not the most talented guy, so I realize that I kind of have to go the extra mile to succeed and advance in baseball," said a modest Fuld, who received September call-up honors after batting .287 in 104 games in the minor leagues this year, mostly at Class AA Tennessee.

"I have to do the little things that help the team, and that includes maybe making some plays and taking some more risks that other players might not," he added.

Fuld was called up from Tennessee on Sept. 4 and has since appeared in 11 games with Chicago. He had another solid year in the minor leagues after batting an even .300 in each of his previous two seasons at the Class-A level.

Fuld said he was surprised to get the call-up, which saw him shuttled to Chicago with INF/OF Eric Patterson being sent from Chicago to Double-A for having arrived late to the ballpark the previous day.

"I had spoken with (Tennessee manager) Pat Listach about the possibility of maybe getting called up at some point in September, but just being in Double-A and us (Tennessee) being in the playoffs, I figured if I were to be called up, it would be after the playoff run there," Fuld said.

"When I got that phone call from Pat, it was amazing. I went into shock mode immediately, and that afternoon and the flight to Chicago is all kind of a blur. You work your whole life for that moment and when it actually happens, it's almost too much to take in."

Fuld, a Stanford alumnus, was actually drafted twice by the Cubs – first in the 24th round in 2003 and one year later in the 10th round in 2004.

It has been a good ride since then, culminating in Fuld's big league debut on Sept. 5.

The former Cardinal hasn't seen many at-bats with Chicago (just one actually), but he has been a consistent late-inning defensive replacement or pinch-runner, and that is something Fuld feels plays to his strengths.

"I've always taken pride in playing defense and in running the bases well, so that's kind of right up my alley," said Fuld. "I have no complaints. Whatever they want me to do, I'm happy doing."

That's exactly the attitude that Cubs Farm Director Oneri Fleita is looking for from young players that are called up this time of year.

"What a story," Fleita said of Fuld. "Most of these guys, they get what you're supposed to do in September. You're not going to play much and you're going to be called upon on very short calls of duties, and when you are, if you can do one little thing that might help the team win, you did your job."

Said Fuld: "It's such a great experience, not just being up here but also being up here in the playoff race (is) incredible. Any way I can help out and help get the team into the playoffs, it would be great."

The Cubs (83-73) entered Tuesday's game against the Marlins three games ahead of second-place Milwaukee in the National League Central race.

Chicago has won four straight games and 10 of their last 12 games overall to pull a season-high 10 games over .500.

"It's certainly different than a minor league playoff race," Fuld said of being in the big league post-season push with his parent club. "Everything is magnified and between the fan support and the business of it, it's exponentially larger. I don't mean that it changes the way we play necessarily because we're here always playing hard, whether it's in Single-A or the major leagues.

"You can't help but appreciate the magnitude of the situation. The way my role is, you just take the opportunity to make an impact and take advantage of every opportunity you get," he said.

That's the Sam Fuld way: play hard, leave it all on the field, appreciate the situation and the opportunity, and just do your job. It seems to be working.

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