750… that’s the number of players at any one time playing professional baseball in the major leagues. To understand the odds of success, consider that according to the World Baseball and Softball Confederation there are an estimated 65 million baseball and softball players.
30 million… that’s the number of diagnosed Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics in the United States alone.
If you combine those two statistics, you probably can count on one hand the number of Major League Baseball player who competed while they were a diagnosed diabetic.
Jason Johnson, who is a spokesperson for BetiVite Multi Vitamins, is one of them.
As a kid, after exhibiting symptoms like always being thirsty, Jason’s mom--who worked in a hospital--was concerned and at age 11 Jason was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic. However, that did not stop him from competing in multiple sports including baseball and basketball throughout high school in his northern Kentucky small town around ten miles outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. Eventually he chose pitching and ended up playing for a high-level travel team called the Midland Redskins, competing against the likes of Derek Jeter and other future stars. During one Midland game a scout for the Pittsburgh Pirates happened to be in the stands watching Jason pitch and knew his raw talent after watching just three pitches, all without a radar gun.
He was immediately signed and after a few years at single-A ball, in just one year he went from single-A to double-A to the majors playing for the Pirates and then going to the Tampa Bay Rays in the expansion draft. He was soon traded to the Baltimore Orioles where he spent the bulk of his ten-year major league career.
All during this time, he never kept his diabetes a secret and it seems that not only did management not care, they were very supportive although they really did not understand the ramifications of the condition. For his part, Jason had it completely under control. At first, he would give himself daily insulin shots--as he did from the time he was a child--but during his third season in the majors, insulin pump technology had caught up to Jason’s needs and he was approved to wear it while he pitched. Only once when a comebacker actually hit the pump that was affixed to his uniform on his lower back, did he have an issue but it was quickly solved when the pump company Medtronic simply Fedexed him a new pump. Other than that, he always kept food in his back pocket to eat while he was working out and playing to control his blood sugar.
Jason has said that having diabetes actually taught him to persevere, to challenge himself every day to do his best and that everyone has an opportunity to overcome barriers to achieve his or her dreams… lessons that he tried to convey when he is talking to children around the country. He wanted to be a face for the condition and to let kids know that diabetes should never limit your ability to do whatever you want to do, that you can achieve the top level of a chosen profession. Jason says that times were different when he first entered the major leagues and even the doctors were skeptical of his potential for success. “But my mom and dad taught me not to be down and that they had faith in me that I could do anything. They told me that if I wanted to be a baseball player, go be a baseball player. And that’s what I try to instill in the kids I speak to. It’s funny, in speaking here in Tampa where I live through the JDRF, the kids with diabetes tell me that they immediately knew about me when they saw the pump velcroed to the back of my uniform on TV. So they relate really well to me and absorb what I am saying.”
Jason knows the dangers of not taking diabetes seriously and living a healthy lifestyle. As a professional athlete, he always trained hard and ate well, something that many Americans do not and even cannot do. That is why he has become a spokesperson for BetiVite Multi Vitamins.