Fuld adds AFL MVP to strong resume
Cubs prospect recalls stellar fall season, looks ahead to '08
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Sam Fuld didn't look much different than any of the other hopefuls at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center as he stood under the banner for the PBEO Job Fair. Wearing a dark blue suit, his hair all coifed and looking a tad nervous, Fuld wouldn't have seemed out of place handing out a resume or inquiring about a job.
To some degree, he will be looking for employment when Spring Training rolls around, and where he eventually winds up, be it in Iowa or Chicago, is the question. One thing Fuld has going for him, though, is that his resume, unlike the other hopefuls, now includes an Arizona Fall League Joe Black Most Valuable Player Award.
A scrappy, no-nonsense kind of player -- think Joe McEwing -- Fuld was the dominant figure during this year's developmental league season. While there are always high-profile prospects dotting the rosters of AFL clubs, it was this 2004 10th-round pick that made the biggest splash, both on and off the field.
Fuld led the AFL in most offensive categories, including hits (43), doubles (11), on-base percentage (.492), slugging percentage (.626), OPS (1.118) and extra-base hits (16). In addition, he finished second in hitting (.402) and third in runs scored (20). Fuld reached base in 27 of 29 games and put together an 11-game hitting streak.
Lest anyone think his contribution to the Mesa Solar Sox was purely statistical, it should be pointed out that Fuld became the first player to win both the MVP and the Dernell Stenson Award, which is presented each year to the player who displays the best leadership qualities.
"Who knows about next year?" said Fuld, who turned 26 in November after making his Major League debut in September. "I don't think this can hurt me for next year. Hopefully this helps, though you can't put much stock in it because it's a short season. But there are so many guys in this league who are current and future Major Leaguers.
"I have confidence that I can be in Chicago at the beginning of next year. I hope the people who make those decisions have the same confidence. To me, it wouldn't be unrealistic for me to start there. But if I have to go to Iowa, that's what I'll do."
Fuld did spend some time in Iowa this season, hitting .269 through 52 August at-bats. He spent the bulk of the season at Double-A Tennessee, where he hit .290 -- .305 versus right-handers -- with a .372 on-base percentage and more walks (41) than strikeouts (38).
His work there and in Iowa impressed the Cubs and he got to spend much of September on the bench, experiencing life in a pennant race. Fuld appeared in 14 games and went hitless in six at-bats, but the experience was priceless and he took what he learned out to Arizona.
"You're coming out of a situation where you're playing at Wrigley Field and you're in a playoff race to one where there was no pressure," Fuld said. "It was laid back and enjoyable there. When I was in Chicago I got to see and learn a lot about the off-the-field stuff and see how the big-league guys go about their business.
"They were always even-keeled. You couldn't tell if they went 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. It was important to play well in Arizona, though, because there are always GMs and scouts in attendance. That's enough to motivate you. You know a lot of eyes are on you and that helped me play hard every day."
Another motivating factor for Fuld is his physical condition. He has Type 1 diabetes and has used his condition as a rallying point to help others and make people aware of the disease. He's donating all the money he raised from the auction he had in conjunction with winning the Stenson Award to diabetes research.
"This is something I take a lot of pride in, giving any sort of inspiration to anyone," Fuld said. "There are a lot of Type 1 diabetics out there and not many people know that it doesn't have to hinder your athletic ability."
Fuld hasn't had many setbacks because of his condition, certainly none that would keep him from earning a place on the Cubs' roster next spring. He's looking for a job and he did a great job of padding his resume this fall.
"Sam Fuld epitomizes the way we should live our lives and approach our jobs," said AFL executive director Steve Cobb. "He's a born leader and a standout ballplayer. He is one of the most exemplary young men to grace the Arizona Fall League in its 16-year history."
Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.