When baseballgirl texted me to inquire who I had interviewed earlier that morning, my phone flatly refused to text that I had talked to Fuld. Every time I tried to type "Fuld" it auto-corrected it to "Gulf" until I finally gave up and just told her that I had talked to "Gulf, sentient, and Parker".
And that pretty much sums up Sam Fuld's career: 7 seasons into Fuld's big league career, even a smart phone is not willing to transmit his name properly. Ladies and gentlemen, please enjoy my chat with Sam "Gulf" Fuld:
Nico: I was thinking about the interview last night and sort of feeling bad for you that -- here's a guy where even the teams that like you, like the A's said "We really like this guy" and next thing you know, you're gone. And they liked you enough to bring you back, but it seems like you've never had a spring, or a season, where you just come in and are like "OK, this is my job, this is my career, this is my future." If you can give me a taste in your words of just what that's like just as a person.
Fuld: It's...It's tough. It certainly adds an element of stress to the equation. I don't really know any different. There's pros and cons to it -- it heightens your focus on a daily basis, but it certainly (chuckles) makes things interesting. And stress is never, I would say, fun, but you can spin it into a positive. I think early on in my career, going back to my Cubs career, I didn't handle the stress very well and I think it reflected in how I played. I think I've learned better how to channel that stress and anxiety, and I guess I've had a few better springs post Cubs career with the Rays and here.
Different environments, too, helped that -- a little more laid back environment in Tampa and here in Oakland. If anything, this spring might be the most stress free spring that I've had and here I am, I think, 0 for my last 6 at least, and all I could think about last night were my at bats and what I needed to do to fix things up. If the A's sign me to that 3 year, $150M deal I would still treat the next 3 spring trainings pretty similarly. I don't think I could ever adapt to a stress free environment!
Nico: But you probably wouldn't grip the bat as tight.
Fuld: Maybe a little bit, yeah, yeah, I don't know. My 11th spring training including my minor league spring trainings, and every one of them I feel I've had to earn my way onto a roster.
Nico: What's the closest you've come before this year to having some presumed security or lack of stress?
Fuld: I would say a couple springs in Tampa, and I would have to say that their communication is incredible down there. So, I never take anything for granted but there were a couple springs in Tampa where I at least felt like, "OK I feel really confident I'm going to at least make the team. But that being said you're always looking to impress coaches and earn more playing time. You don't want to limp into the season and have the coaching staff doubt your ability to play.
Nico: I always figure fans care about spring training stats a lot more than players or teams do. What is it that players feel matters? Or the team -- do they care that you're 0 for your last 6 in the first week of March?
Fuld: (pauses, thinking) ... I don't know. (laughs) I really don't. They certainly care less than if I were 0 for my last 6 during the regular season. But understandably, there's 60 guys in camp and we don't expect to be talked to about our performance on a daily basis given just the sheer numbers of players here --
Nico: -- but even during the regular season, the A's are not going to look at one game, or two at bats --
Fuld: Yeah, and that's comforting. That's very comforting as a player. This organization tends not to panic based on a couple bad performances. They understand and appreciate the ups and downs within a season and they do a great job of keeping small slumps in perspective.
Nico: Now, going back to before your professional career have you always been in a bit of an underdog role or have there been times where you've been sort of the king of the castle?
Fuld: I guess if we go all the way back to high school baseball in New Hampshire, yeah I was certainly a better player comparatively than I am now or even in college. But we're talking about New Hampshire baseball, the big fish in a small pond there. Even then I knew that in order to succeed professionally, or even collegiately, I'd just have to over achieve and find different ways of providing value.
Nico: Now bringing it to the present, what are you focusing on right now to try to gain that next step of, "Well we can't lose this guy"?
Fuld: If there's anything I'm always seeking to improve it's the offensive side, so I'm working out a couple things with my swing, testing a couple things. I guess I feel a little more at liberty to try a couple things this spring as opposed to last year, where I really just felt I had to succeed right from the beginning and couldn't afford to experiment...But generally, at this point in my career, it's not a lot --
Nico: -- you are who you are.
Fuld: Yeah, we're always looking to improve and I don't ever want to lose that, but defensively I just want to continue to be athletic and work and always strive to be better, but there's only so many gains you can make.
Nico: Now I'm thinking if it were me, I'd be going to Bob (Melvin), "You know, I'm working on some stuff, might have been 0 for 3 today, but..." Does the team understand or know, or do you communicate that, to put into context how your performance might be compared to your process? Like, do they know you're experimenting and that might be why you're --
Fuld: Eh, I've talked to Bushie (Darren Bush), our hitting coach, we've talked about that. beyond that, I don't know. I don't know if he's expressed that to anyone else. At this point it doesn't matter too much, the sample is small enough, if a couple weeks from now I'm still continuing to struggle maybe I need to go back to my old ways and just be happy with what I was doing back then.
For what it's worth -- and after this interview you can draw your own conclusions -- so far this spring Fuld's batting line is .294/.368/.412. Better yet, take out that 0 for 6 and he's batting .455!