Freshman Is A Perfect Fit
April 12, 2001
Last week in Sam Fuld's hometown of Durham, New Hampshire, there was snow on the ground. His old high school, Phillips Exeter Academy, had its regular baseball season shortened to eight games because of the weather. Last week in a game for Stanford, Fuld extended his career-high hitting streak to 12 games. Fuld has been on fire during the streak, which began on March 23 after the Cardinal came back from an 11-day spring break. Fuld, who was hitting .214 in his 21 games prior to the break, has been the Cardinal's leading hitter in his 12 games since with a .478 (22-46) batting average. He has been on fire in his last two games, going 7-for-10 (.700) with two doubles, six runs scored and three RBI. It is fair to say that Fuld has made the adjustments necessary to compete at the Division I level.
Fuld was highly recruited out of high school. He was a 2000 Preseason First Team All-American, listed 19th on Baseball America's 100 Top High School Prospects list for 2000, and selected New Hampshire 2000 Gatorade High School Baseball Player of the Year.
'Stanford was obviously the best combination of baseball and academics,' Fuld said about his decision to attend The Farm. 'I would say that my first priority was to find a good academic school, and I wanted to find a school with a good baseball program, too.'
He picked the right place.With six position players signing professional baseball contracts after the 2000 season, the four incoming freshman position players needed to perform immediately for Stanford to succeed.
'There was a little bit of pressure, but you really don't think about it because you are expected to fit in right away, whether the team lost a bunch of players or whether everybody is coming back,' stated Fuld.
Needless to say, Fuld has blended in perfectly on both offense and defense. He struggled at the plate early in the season, but after ripping a double off USC ace Mark Prior on March 9th, things have changed for the lefty. After making adjustments to his swing and stance, Fuld has been crushing the ball.
'It has taken a long time, but I've worked a lot with the coaches,' Fuld said. 'We have tried about a hundred different things, and we've finally found something that works. Now, I've got to keep on trying to do that.'
Fuld is not just trying, he is succeeding. But offense is only one side of his well-rounded game. This year, Fuld has patrolled center field with speed and grace. He makes difficult plays appear routine and robs hitters of what should be extra base hits in the gaps.
'The thing I like about [center field] best is the mental part,' said Fuld. 'I like to predict where the ball is going to be hit and where to position myself. There are so many different things that you can do out there to make a difference that people just don't realize.'
People may not recognize these finer aspects of the game, but they can all see the impact Fuld has made this year.
At the beginning of this season, nobody expected Stanford to repeat its level of play from the 2000 campaign. However, Fuld said that the players and coaches' expectations have remained the same as in the past.
'The goal for the team every year is to go to Omaha and win it all, and there's no difference this year,' Fuld emphasized. 'We knew that we had the talent but a lot of other people didn't think that we did.'
The team has proved its critics wrong. As top-ranked Stanford continues its road back to Omaha, Fuld will play an integral role as the club's leadoff hitter and anchor in the outfield. More small adjustments along the way are inevitable but Fuld has already established his role as a key to the Cardinal's success.
by Jessica Raber