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“Designated for Assignment” are three words no professional baseball player wants to hear. In baseball purgatory for 10 days, the player is immediately removed from the team’s 40-man roster and sent through the waiver process where he hopes another team will claim him. If not, he can be traded (which is unlikely), released or banished to the minors with little chance of a call-up.
On April 12, Sam Fuld was staring that situation squarely in face. At 32-years-old with a .238 career average, the outfielder was ready for anything, even The End. Luckily for him, the Twins had so poorly mismanaged their centerfield situation the past two seasons, they were desperate for a competent veteran who could cover some ground.
Fuld of course, could do that and more, gaining a reputation for his defensive prowess that turned him into a Legend in Tampa. On April 20, he became a Twin and, despite a stint on the Disabled List with a concussion, has spent a lot of time in centerfield. The 7-year veteran and I chatted last month.
DZ: You’ve had a pretty eventful year, not everything good, but you are here now. How has it been for you?
FULD: It’s definitely been a wild ride. I knew going into this season, it could potentially be an interesting one. I knew there would be a lot of unpredictability and definitely, the beginning of this season has been hectic. I just try to make the most of it and enjoy the ride.
DZ: I read that you almost came to the Twins last winter, but signed with Oakland instead. Is that true?
FULD: Yeah, I though about it, yeah.
DZ: What was the deciding factor at that point?
FULD: There are a lot of variables that went into it, but I think, first and foremost, was opportunity. It seemed to be a better opportunity in Oakland than here ultimately.
DZ: Can you take me through the process of leaving Oakland and coming here. What was that like?
FULD: It was strange. I think that DFA (Designated for Assignment) limbo is an interesting part of the game where you sit and wait up to 10 days. It’s kind of a helpless feeling - nowhere to work out - you are totally on your own. You just play the waiting game, it’s 10 days, but it felt like a month. Any time you are away from the game during the season, it’s a little odd.
DZ: Does it cross your mind that the phone might not ever ring or do you not think about that?
FULD: Yeah, absolutely, I was prepared for anything. Mentally prepared for anything, but sort of hoped for the best. Ultimately, that’s sort of out of your control.
DZ: What’s that (experience) like. Obviously, your whole family is in it too, how does that affect everybody?
FULD: It’s tricky when family is involved and there’s uncertainty. You go with the flow and hope you have an understanding wife and I am lucky that I do. I’ve got some kids that are learning to adapt to those surroundings. I guess the silver lining of that whole experience is that I got to spend some extra time with my family. It’s always good to take some positives out of stuff like that.
DZ: You get here and then get off to a pretty good start and then, not too long after that, you get the concussion. Have you ever had a concussion before?
FULD: No, nothing diagnosed.
DZ: You just never know how people are going to respond to that….
FULD: The whole experience is tricky, not having gone though it before. You try to learn from others who have experienced it, but ultimately everybody has different symptoms. Some guys take longer than others depending on their history. A whole host of factors. It was tough, unlike any other injury. You really aren’t supposed to do much until the symptoms go away or at least that’s the thought now, but there is still a lot more research to be done in that department.
DZ: You are guy who is known for playing really hard in the outfield, maybe ran in to a wall or two in your day. Does it creep into your mind that you have to change that at all?
FULD: I don’t think so. I feel confident coming back that symptoms are gone and I can go back an play no differently than before the injury.
DZ: You have (Type 1) diabetes, does that help you keep perspective when things don’t go your way?
FULD: Yeah, in some ways…I’ve overcome a number of obstacles, one of which is having Type 1 diabetes. It’s comforting to know that ultimately, I’ve gotten this far dealing with those sorts of things. At the same time, I’ve always sort of treated it like I am no different than anybody else. I don’t ever use it as an excuse or anything like that.
DZ: You probably wouldn’t have made it this far if you did.
FULD: No, no, not at all.
See more of David Zingler’s interviews with Twins players: