For the 104 members and guests — including 10 current and former major league players, a former general manager, and scouts — attending the SABR Rocky Mountain Chapter’s 18th Annual Banquet on November 14, 2015, it was a wonderful Indian Summer day and memorable night. Filling up the Super Suite at Coors Field in Denver, all the attendees were treated to a fine evening of baseball conversation and camaraderie.
Banquet Chairman Paul Parker introduced Jason Hirsh, a former major-league pitcher and sportscaster for ROOT Sports, and the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.
Hirsh introduced Jacob Pomrenke, SABR’s Director of Editorial Content who compiles “This Week in SABR” and coordinates media and research requests. Jacob spoke about SABR and the regional chapters, their various activities, and the members’ variety of baseball interests that bring together historians, statisticians, researchers, and fans with love and interest of the game.
The evening’s program began with the featured speaker Dan Evans, former General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and current Toronto Blue Jays Pacific Rim Operations/major-league scout. Evans spoke about his father’s influence in his joining SABR and how he began his baseball career as an intern with the Chicago White Sox, taking an early interest in analytics/sabermetrics. It began his lifelong SABR involvement and associations with lots of fans, players, scouts, and executives.
Next, the presentation of the John Zajc Award for meritorious service to the Rocky Mountain Chapter was made to Herb Shankman by Jacob Pomrenke. Herb is a longtime SABR member, a chapter board director and professional baseball player in the Boston/Milwaukee Braves organization. He is also a 15-year Coors Field usher who rarely misses a game. Shankman was very surprised to be getting the award and humbly accepted it.
Hirsh then introduced Drew Goodman, a Rockies broadcast for ROOT Sports and 11-time Sportscaster of the Year. Goodman, via a previously recorded video, presented to George Frazier the Rocky Mountain SABR Award, recognizing individuals for Lifetime Achievement in Baseball. Frazier, a former major-league relief pitcher and ROOT Sports Rockies analyst for 19 seasons, is the only analyst to work Rockies televised games on a regular basis since the 1997 season. He retired this year from ROOT Sports. He spoke of his love of the game and desire to become involved in college and minor-league baseball player development.
The evening then reached its focal point with the Keynote Speaker, Sam Fuld, major-league outfielder who provided highlights of his baseball career, gameday experiences, and baseball travels. As a young child, he carried around a copy of The Complete Baseball Handbook and by the time he was only 5 or 6 he was already computing batting averages and ERAs. Fuld was a high school baseball star at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire despite being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 10. He played collegiately at Stanford University, majoring in economics, and was drafted in 2003 by the Chicago Cubs, but did not sign. He continued his pursuit of his degree and kept playing baseball for the Cardinal, setting several school records, becoming a two-time All American and making it to the College World Series. The Cubs drafted him for a second time, in the 10th round in 2004. During the baseball off-season, Fuld returned to Stanford to pursue a master’s degree in statistics. In the minors, as a result of his fearless defense, he was referred to as a “manager’s dream and a trainer’s worst nightmare.”
Fuld said that during a long bus ride he read Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball, which sparked a renewed interest in statistics. While rehabbing from an injury in 2004 he got an internship position with STATS, Inc. of Chicago. He also began seeking out stats that were not already kept. He discovered that there were no stats on foul balls so he picked a few players and started tracking them, thinking he would find something that would be of benefit towards some new batting approaches. However, during a team movement of his gear to Tampa, which included personal items, his bag that contained the notebook with all his stats was stolen. He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 2007. After the 2010 season, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. He played with the Rays through 2013, and in 2014 he played for the Oakland Athletics (for two stints) and Minnesota Twins.
In response to a question about his Type I diabetes, he pointed out that the day was World Diabetes Day and that from an early age he realized there was no other alternative, he just looked at it as a challenge. He spoke about the numerous times a day he checks his blood sugar via use of a glucometer, and administers to himself shots of insulin, even during games. He described his support of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and connection with young fans with diabetes, most notably through his diabetes sports camp at the University of South Florida in Tampa. It brings together hundreds of kids to learn from “Super Sam” and other coaches with diabetes, showing the young athletes that diabetes doesn’t have to hold them back. Sam went on to say that any time he can talk to young diabetic kids, he looks forward to that opportunity. Other questions from the floor centered on platooning, shifting, video, scouting and team approaches towards use of statistics and metrics.
— John Paul
Rocky Mountain secretary