Playing Little League Baseball with Diabetes

Posted by harris on Mon, 05/12/2014 - 16:34 in
Baseball-with-Diabetes
They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. I took this one of Davis during a scorching hot little league game. It must have been at least 98oF. It’s my favorite, because Davis looks real tough. Believe it or not, he is!

My son Davis has always loved baseball and has played with the town league since he was in first grade. It was his sport, the “thinking man’s game!” I loved playing it with him in our backyard, because it’s the perfect father-son summer thing to do. I also coached his team, so I was always on the baseball field with him.

Davis was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in January 2011 when he was nine years old. I remember Children’s Hospital saying, “Just keep doing what you’re doing and absolutely keep playing baseball.” Of course, as a newly diagnosed family, we couldn’t imagine how that was going to be possible. So, we thought about putting baseball off for a year.

Because Davis was a picky eater and a creature of habit, we first chose a plan that required injecting a combination of two insulins, one fast-acting and one slow-acting. While it meant fewer needles for Davis, it also meant that he had to eat a specific amount of carbs at certain times of the day and no after-dinner snacks. That’s not easy for anyone to do, so we tried sugar-free gelatin for a while, but he quickly grew tired of it.

Preparing Davis’ Coaches and Teammates

After about three months of combined injections, it was time for Davis’ first baseball practice with diabetes. While he was on the field, I went up to each of the coaches and explained that Davis had diabetes and discussed important details, such as what we would do if Davis’ blood sugar was too low, what the symptoms were and what the hand signals would be (that’s baseball!) if Davis had to come off the field. The coaches asked me what Davis wanted to tell his teammates, which I let Davis decide.

I knew that the umpire could stop the game for any reason and a few times I had to check on Davis behind the plate (he played catcher). I think I made up the excuse “medical time-out” once.  Nobody seemed to mind. Once or twice Davis did end up with a low blood sugar and we had to test on the bench. His teammates were very interested and asked him what was going on.

Starting an Insulin Pump

About a week later, Davis’ “honeymoon” period finally ended, which meant that he became a candidate for an insulin pump. I contacted most of the manufacturers, but Davis was very clear that he “didn’t want any tubes coming out of him.” It was the Omnipod insulin pump or nothing.

So a week after starting on his insulin pump, Davis made it to baseball practice, showed off his pump to the coaches and has never looked back.

Playing Baseball with an Insulin Pump

What a life-changing event the insulin pump was! Not only is Davis now free from injections, but he can eat just about anything that he wants. All of a sudden, managing diabetes during baseball became much easier by simply adjusting his pump’s basal rate to match his level of physical activity. This means the risk of a low blood sugar on the ball field is much less. Also, the Pod is so discreet that nobody really notices it. This allows Davis to keep his head in the game and not have to constantly focus on diabetes.

At first because we were still newbies, some adjustments and considerations had to be made. We had to think about a site for Davis to wear the Pod that wouldn’t interfere with him playing baseball. For instance, we didn’t choose his stomach just in case he wanted to slide. It took some time and it all seems so obvious now, but we discovered that placing the Pod high on his arm worked like a charm.

Not Letting Diabetes Hold Davis Back

It’s been three years since Davis was first diagnosed with diabetes and he’s still playing baseball. Now he’s a strapping 5’5” seventh grader and diabetes doesn’t feel so overwhelming anymore. He is confident, mature and resilient. Sometimes Davis says that he actually forgets that he has diabetes. He is not defined by it, but is instead defined by his actions and experiences on and off the baseball field.

In a way, life with diabetes is a lot like baseball. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but you never give up and you always strive to do better. Just like Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks) said in the motion picture, A League of Their Own, “there’s no crying in baseball.”

The Omnipod insulin pump has provided Davis with a good quality of life and we are very grateful. Even bolusing for a game-winning frappe (milkshake) while standing in line at the local creamery (that’s so New England), is so discreet that no one’s the wiser.

The tubeless nature of the Omnipod System makes it easy to use when playing sports or during other activities. Click here to order a FREE sample Pod to try on your own.