I was walking confidently into my high school as a teenager. Or maybe I was escaping wearily from it. The point is, I was outside of the building, making me better and safer than I probably had been moments before.
I had recently quit the football team. I hated it, which is what happens when you are bad at a sport–all sports, really–lack coordination, motor skills, speed, strength, and coolness. Did you know that in the middle of the summer, football teams will practice twice in a single day? Well, not the professional teams. But private school high school teams, I can say for sure. It’s like they don’t want us to have any time for Halo.
The coaching staff was making a hard push toward keeping everyone on the team, not because they liked everyone, or everyone was good, but because the school was small and they needed as deep a roster as they could muster. Of course, this meant campaigning for weaklings like me to come on out and survive a third year of fourth string verbal abuse that we received usually because we were formulating Blood Gulch strategies instead of understanding what anything in the playbook meant.
Basically, it was one guy who didn’t like me or want me on his team trying to convince me, a guy who didn’t like him or want to be on his team, to do something he didn’t want me to do. One of the coaches passed me in the parking lot one day and made this inspiring speech.
“Klugh, you playing football next year?”
“You… should. You should.”
It was skin-crawlingly awkward and everyone on both sides knew what it was. Naturally, it was something I would try to avoid whenever I could. So one day, as I was leaving or entering the school, I looked up to discover that I was walking directly towards one of the coaches, with no escape really possible. This particular coach was a nice guy who happened to be pretty overweight and a little too open about his personal life. Whatever he said to me that day, I can’t even remember if football was discussed. All I remember is a story about him going camping, having diabetes, and at some point, discovering his sock was full of blood.
I had heard of diabetes by that point, but wasn’t really 100% on what it was. And I still wasn’t. But the imagery cooked up by that possibly obese gentlemen very casually telling me about his experience in the woods with a tube sock, matted down by his own fluids, is now the picture I immediately associate with diabetes each time it is mentioned.
So, the revelation that the Phillies’ number one draft pick Shane Watson’s distorted vision, barfing, 32-pound weight loss, fatigue, and other symptoms was actually Type I diabetes is no easy thing to digest; for him, especially. Recently sent home from practice, and then taken to the doctor by his father and brother, 19-year-old Watson felt immediately better after his first dose of sweet, sweet insulin, and does not seem at all deterred from being the next Brett Myers but likable.
The important thing is he was diagnosed and his condition is being managed with an insulin pump and mindful monitoring of his diet, but this development makes Joe Jordan’s analysis of him at an instructional camp this month all the more impressive:
“At the end, he was our best pitcher in camp.”
–Phillies head of player development Joe Jordan
But that pales in comparison to Shane’s own attitude toward the matter, which after the initial shock and emotion toward having his life changed forever, was charmingly prioritized.
“I was most thankful to not have something more serious. I’m so glad it wasn’t cancer or something where you can’t play baseball.”