When Michael Taylor was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, his first thought wasn’t that he might not be able to catch fly balls, take batting practice, or realize his major league dreams.
“The first thing that came to my mind was whether I’d be able to go trick-or-treating,” says the twenty-six-year-old left fielder, currently with the Sacramento River Cats, the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s. But his candy-coated thoughts make sense: Taylor was 10 when he was diagnosed. “All of my teenage and young adult experiences have come as a person living with diabetes. So it’s always been part of my routine [as a baseball player] and my regimen.”
His long experience living with diabetes honed not just Taylor’s testing and management routine, but his confidence about himself – and his confidence in speaking up when he’s not feeling right.
“A lot of people living with diabetes don’t want to be seen as different – they don’t want to sit out of a drill or an exercise to check their blood sugar. But in my experience it’s not something to play around with,” he says. His advice to young athletes who have been diagnosed: Speak up. “Alert your coaches, and let them know. You have to be grown-up enough to say, ‘I’m going to sit out for fifteen minutes so I can perform at a level that feels good for me.’”
As he’s risen from Stanford to the high minors, even enjoying a few stints in the majors, Taylor has learned to minimize the times he needs to sit out by testing often and watching what he eats. “I stay away from lasagna, and from things that are overly carb- and fat-intensive. Those foods don’t work as well for me when I’m playing,” he says.
But the minor-league lifestyle – long road trips, unpredictable food options, and late-night arrivals – can make managing his blood sugar complicated, Taylor says. “The other day, we had two connecting flights, got to the ballpark, and there was no food,” he says. “With some guys, it affects them in that they’re hungry. With me, it’s a little deeper. I have to eat whatever I can just for the sake of energy, and it may be something which might affect my blood sugar and maybe make me sluggish for a bit.”
While other players may not have to scrutinize their diet so closely, Taylor doesn’t see his diabetes as a disadvantage – or a hindrance – to his dreams. He hopes to follow other major leaguers living with diabetes, such as Rays’ outfielder Sam Fuld and Blue Jays’ pitcher Brandon Morrow, to full careers in the big leagues.
“I would be lying if I said that some days aren’t as easy for me,” Taylor says. “But everybody has something to deal with. This is just one of the things I have to overcome to be as successful as I want to be.”
Greg Presto is a Washington, DC-based writer and videographer. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, The Chicago Sun-Times, TimeOut Chicago, Life&Style Weekly, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, and Lakeland Boating. Presto is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
© 2012 The DX: The Diabetes Experience