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Ken Fuld Talks Baseball

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Ken Fuld, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, has a son who plays professional baseball for the Tampa Bay Rays. This year in a game against the Chicago White Sox, Sam Fuld made a diving catch that made him an instant Internet celebrity and dubbed him "Superman Sam." In late April, he led the American League in both batting average and steals.

From 1993 to 1995, Ken Fuld was an assistant coach of UNH's baseball team.

1) Sam has become something of a superstar. What's that been like for your family?

Well, I'm not sure about superstar status, but he has caught the media's eye.  Playing well in April helped, and the fact that he is an interesting story --Stanford educated, diabetic, from New Hampshire, mom's a state senator, dad's a dean, etc.-- helps as well.

For my wife and me, we are of course very proud not only for the way he has played --although he tanked in the month of May--but also for the way he has handled all of this.  It hasn't gone to his head, and he has used some of his "fame" to further the cause of research on Type I diabetes and care for those with the disease.

One of the nice outcomes of all of this is the outpouring of support we have received from friends and others in the community.  I've seen this kind of support before for others who have suffered tragedies in their lives; it's one of the great things about being a member of this community.  But in our case it comes as a result of a feel-good story.  Related to this are the occasional e-mails we have received from people we haven't heard from in literally 50 years!  It's great fun reminiscing and catching up with their lives.

2) Did you play baseball when you were a kid? If so, were you any good?

I played in high school, where I was team captain in my senior year.  Good glove; couldn't hit my way out of a paper bag.

3) Who taught Sam to play?

Sam was fortunate to have had some excellent coaches, but in all immodesty I would say that he learned a lot from me. . . at least early on.

4) He was a three-sport athlete at Philips Exeter Academy. Where does he get his athleticism from?

His mother--I guess some from me too. 

5) Does a love of baseball run in your family or have you come to love the game because of Sam?

It definitely runs in the family. Although a life-long Red Sox fan, my wife as a child had a crush on Mickey Mantle --New York Yankees--; and growing up in New York City, I was a Giants and Willie Mays fan. My allegiance shifted to the Red Sox when I arrived in New England first as a student and then for work. Obviously, now I'm a huge Rays fan.

6) There is a quote attributed to journalist Heywood Broun Jr. that says "Sports do not build character. They reveal it." Do you think that's true?

To some extent, but sports, like any activity, contribute toward shaping character as well.

7) Is baseball America's greatest pastime?

Sadly, no longer, I'd say. Baseball still commands a following, but not like it once did.  For one thing there are a greater number of competing sports that have become popular—soccer and, in this region, lacrosse. My guess is that by many measures--e.g., TV revenue, attendance-- football has emerged as America's greatest pastime--that and TV reality shows. 

8) There has been a lot written in recent few years about poor sportsmanship among parents. Why do you think this has become such an issue?

My answer to this question is too long and complicated for me to give here, I'm afraid.

9) Sam has diabetes. Did you ever worry about him playing sports at such a high level?

No. Not really.  He has handled diabetes very well from the time he was diagnosed (age 10).  He is highly disciplined regarding his food intake, exercise, and monitoring of blood glucose levels. Perhaps because of his math proclivity, he has understood and managed the multivariate nature of controlling blood sugar levels. 

Our biggest concern was not how he would manage the disease as a professional athlete but how others in positions of influence--e.g., scouting directors, general managers, coaches, managers--would react to the knowledge that he had this disease. There is an amazing amount of ignorance still about diabetes and its effect on performance.  For example, some individuals have openly expressed their concerns that Sam would be relatively more vulnerable to fatigue over the course of a season. This is a completely erroneous assumption.

10) Humphrey Bogart said "A hot dog at the ballgame beats roast beef at the Ritz." Do you agree?

Definitely!