SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Sam Fuld has never backed down from a challenge and that’s been a major reason he’s still playing professional baseball. He’s facing his latest test trying to make the roster of the Oakland Athletics as a reserve outfielder.
Fuld said it’s all about perseverance and the willingness to do the little things that help win a ballgame. It’s an attitude respected by A’s manager Bob Melvin, who watched Fuld from the opposing bench the past two years.
Fuld, a non-roster player, was drawn to Oakland because he felt the A’s shared similar characteristics.
“It’s exciting any time you’re in a new environment,” Fuld said Friday. “The players make it easier to transition to a place like this. I’ve always admired what this team has been about over the years.”
Fuld returns to the Bay Area, where he attended Stanford and was a teammate of A’s shortstop Jed Lowrie there. Fellow outfielder Michael Taylor is also a former Cardinal player.
Challenges are nothing new for the 32-year-old outfielder, who appeared in 268 games with the Tampa Bay Rays the previous three seasons, batting .230 with 21 doubles, five home runs and 49 RBIs.
Fuld was diagnosed with childhood diabetes when he was 10 and continues to struggle with the disease. He was raised in New Hampshire, not exactly a gold mine for major league baseball players — he’s one of 37 from the state to have reached the big leagues.
He called the move from New Hampshire to Stanford his biggest adjustment.
“It was a huge change for me,” said Fuld, who left the school four years later as its all-time runs scored leader. “I wanted to challenge myself and that was definitely a challenge.”
Fuld set a school single-season record for hits and finished with 356 overall, second only to John Gall, who played with the St. Louis Cardinals and played for Team USA at the 2008 Olympics.
He also tops the school charts in at-bats with 1,071, one of two players, with Gall, to reach 1,000 at-bats.
Melvin called him “a pest” as an opposing manager.
“He’s a smart player who knows how to play as a role player,” Melvin said. “He plays defense all-out and to bring in new guys who fit our style can only add to our success.”
Fuld can play all four outfield spots and can be used as a defensive replacement, a pinch hitter or pinch runner and showed, with the Rays, he could be an everyday player, too.
“The only way to get to this level is to persevere,” Fuld said. “Everybody here plays with confidence. You have to work hard and do the little things to help a team win. You can overcome anything with enough confidence.”
Fuld was originally drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 24th round of the 2003 first-year player draft but returned to Stanford for his senior year. Drafted in the 10th round in 2004, Fuld worked his way to the majors in 2007. He played 98 total games with Chicago in a four-year span.
“I’ve always had to overcome long odds,” he said.
NOTES: OF Craig Gentry (lower back tightness) did not participate in any baseball activity. .. RHP Ryan Cook (shoulder) was also given the day off. . The A’s set up batting cages side by side on one field and used pitching machines to double the action, a trick the team learned from Japanese baseball. “Chalk it up to Chip Hale and the coaching staff,” Melvin said. “We’d thought about it with coaches throwing but decided on pitching machines and no one in the field to avoid someone getting hurt.”