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The Inside Pitch Exclusive: Cat Fight
Taylor battles Diabetes while making his mark on the field
07/26/2010 6:34 PM ET
 
The Inside Pitch is a 56-page magazine given away for free at all River Cats home games. A new issue will be published each homestand.

It's late. Later than a 10-year-old Michael Taylor should be up.

But in late 1996, young Michael is awake, and he needs to pee ... badly. This has become a common occurrence for the child, who at times pops out of bed at 45-second intervals to use the bathroom. Concerned that her son might have a bladder infection, Michael's mom, Sheryl, takes him to a doctor. The doctor refers the boy to a specialist, who discovers Michael has Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes, commonly referred to as Juvenile Diabetes, is usually diagnosed in 5-10 percent of children and young adults. With Type 1 Diabetes, the body does not produce a hormone called Insulin, which converts the sugars and starches we eat into energy the body can use to sustain life.

It's a serious problem for an athlete.

Baseball great Ron Santo lost both of his legs to diabetes, while baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson and many other athletes have suffered from the disease. However, with modern technology, Taylor's diabetes is kept under control as he patrols right field for the River Cats.

"He's had (diabetes) his whole life, and Michael knows how to control it," said River Cats Manager Tony DeFrancesco. "He does multiple tests throughout the day. Before (games), and on the bench he has his drinks, his food and fruit, whatever he needs to do to make sure his diabetes is under control. He is very conscious of it, and he understands that is part of his life and daily routine."

At 10, playing sports with diabetes didn't seem like a big deal to Taylor.

"Early on I had a very regimented and controlled eating schedule," says the 24-year-old native of Cheverly, Maryland. "I ate before the game and then I could play. I was 10-years-old, so I had my dad in the dugout. I didn't even think about it, diabetes-wise."

Taylor never let diabetes slow him down, learning as much as he could about the condition when he was younger. Taylor has used that no-excuses mindset through his progressions from high school to Stanford University, and then into professional baseball.

Since his diagnosis, Taylor never stood out for having diabetes.

"Sometimes I have to sit out of stuff because my blood sugar is too low," he said. "It will take a couple minutes to get back up, but I don't really get treated differently (by other people) because I'm a diabetic."

If anything, Taylor has stood out for being a premier baseball player. During his senior year of high school, Taylor was named First-Team All-America by USA Today, Collegiate Baseball and Baseball America. He batted .409 with five home runs, 27 RBIs, 12 stolen bases and 24 walks that season.

And to top it all off, he graduated sixth in his class. His dedication and drive in high school sent him to Stanford, where he continued to excel at whatever he chose to pursue. His determination helped him lead the Cardinal for three years, during which he led the team in nearly every category from hits to stolen bases.

In both his freshman and sophomore years, Taylor was named to the Wallace Award Watch, the College Baseball Foundation's honor recognizing the top player in college baseball. And in 2007, his dedication paid off again when he was drafted in the fifth round of the First-Year Player Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies' organization. The Oakland A's organization acquired the outfielder after the 2009 season in a trade that sent infielder Brett Wallace to the Toronto Blue Jays' organization.

"He is very focused," DeFrancesco said of Taylor. "There are a lot of good things that Michael does. He has great work-ethic, and one thing about Michael is that he has the ability to go out there and play every day - sometimes that's hard in the Minor Leagues with all the travel and injuries."

Entering the season, Taylor was ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the A's organization by Baseball America. Taylor started the season slow, with a batting average as low as .204 in May. But as the season has progressed, all of Taylor's stats improved, from .204 in May to .278 in June. Considered the organization's best hitter for average by Baseball America, Taylor has endeared himself to River Cats fans with both his powerful swing and personality.

While Taylor is all business out on the field, he is more than willing to crack a few jokes off the field. The slugger is even willing to joke about his diabetes, explaining how there are no good "diabetic-isms" for him to use. But if there is one thing he is serious about when it comes to diabetes, or any other condition, it is letting kids with similar conditions know that if they set their minds to it, they can do whatever they want to do.

"Educate yourself on what you are dealing with, whatever your medical condition might be," he says. "Hopefully you have a great support system, like a mother or father for a young child or family, mentor, anyone who is looking out for your best interest. I would strongly urge you to educate yourself.

"Find a system that works for you and then do whatever you want to do. There is really nothing that diabetes holds me back from. I don't want to speak on behalf of all ailments out there, because there are some more serious conditions, but I believe where there's a will there's a way.

"Figure out how you can do it and do it."

The Inside Pitch is a 56-page magazine given away for free at all River Cats home games. A new issue will be published each homestand. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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