MLB scouts are quickly learning what those in Central Texas have known for the past two to three years: Taylor (Texas) High's Cade Samuelson is a heck of an athlete. What they still may not have become attuned to, however, is that Samuelson has made the transition from unknown to potential MLB draft pick while wearing an insulin pump.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, Samuelson learned he had Type 1 diabetes at age 8, but refused to let the disease keep him from the sports that he loves. As he grew older, Samuelson needed to take additional steps to ensure that he could make it safely through practices and games, leading to the use of an insulin pump to better regulate his insulin levels.
Despite that relative handicap -- and a lack of offensive support from the struggling Ducks, who finished the 2011 season at 8-17 -- Samuelson turned heads with an astounding 109 strikeouts, more than any other pitcher in traditionally pro prospect-heavy Central Texas. In one victory he had 17 strikeouts, setting down 13 in another. He has allegedly thrown as high as the upper 90s, and showed power at the plate while starting at shortstop when he wasn't on the mound for the Ducks.
Samuelson's football coach, Rick Cobia, said the senior's diabetes was never an issue in the team's preparation or pre-game routines. In fact, the coach and Samuelson himself said they doubted many people beyond Samuelson's family and closest friends even know that he has diabetes, let alone that he is forced to wear an insulin pump.
"He would test his blood-sugar level count before practice and if he felt that he needed to eat candy or crackers or drink Gatorade, he would do so to be on the safe side," Cobia told the American-Statesman. "I do remember him going in to get a sweet because he felt like he was having a problem during a practice."
While the disease has robbed Samuelson of his favorite soda -- his father said he was devastated when told he could no longer drink Dr. Pepper -- it hasn't dimmed his dream of pitching in the major leagues. With former MLB (and current minor league) pitcher Jason Johnson and outfielder Michael Taylor, one of the top prospects in the Oakland A's system (not to mention numerous stars in other sports, like Bears quarterback Jay Cutler), Samuelson has plenty of role models to look at as he heads toward his first year at Concordia (Texas) University in fall 2012.
Given the velocity and movement on his pitches, and his personal determination, few could be surprised if he makes his way to the pro level sooner or later.