Sam Riccardulli, a patient of Dr. Natasha Leibel’s at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center, excels at softball. Recently, the Westchester County teenager was featured in her local newspaper (www.lohud.com) in a story that captured her love of the game. Here is what they had to say:
Softball coach Sammy Fernandez makes it a point for her players to have their cell phones off during games — other than the one phone that blasts each player’s walk-up song through the speaker in the dugout. Sam Riccardulli is an exception.
Yorktown's senior center fielder was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in February 2017, and her blood sugar is monitored on her phone through the Dexcom application on her continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Her father, Bill, is often just beyond the fence in the outfield and has the same app on his phone as the second line of defense.
When the pump that provides Sam with her regular insulin failed during a game against Lourdes on Monday, she was notified right away. Her coach subbed her out for an inning so that she could change her pump, then put her back in the game.
“My entire life has changed,” said Sam, who is one hit shy of her 100th career hit and has won two Section 1 Class AA titles with the Huskers. “It’s definitely a struggle, it’s a lot to manage, but it’s nothing I can’t do.”
Sam was taken to the doctor two years ago after her mother started noticing she was displaying some of the symptoms associated T1D, such as unintended weight loss, increased thirst and frequent urination. She lost 25 pounds in about six weeks and was drinking 12-15 water bottles each day.
T1D although once known as juvenile diabetes, affects approximately 1.25 million Americans of all ages, shapes and sizes, according to the American Diabetes Association. TID makes up roughly five percent of all people with diabetes.
Life is different for Sam from the moment she wakes up.
“Every morning, I check my blood sugar. Before I eat, every three hours, I have to give myself insulin, so it’s a lot of math – a lot of different subtracting, adding, dividing,” she said. “It’s an everyday thing. It’s every second of every minute, I’m reminded of it.”
As a junior, Sam was named to the all-star team after hitting .472 with a team-high 27 hits and zero errors committed in the field. She was selected to the "Next Nine" preseason watch list this year, which recognizes the top 18 returning players from Westchester, Rockland and Putnam Counties.
It did not take long for Sam to make an impression on her new head coach.
“Right away, we wanted her to be one of our captains,” her coach Sammy said of Sam. “Not only does she lead the team on the field, off the field, she’s always getting them hyped on the buses on the way to games, back from games.”
Yorktown is regularly one of the rowdiest and most animated dugouts in Section 1 softball. Whether it’s waving flags, scaling the fences while cheering on the team, or singing along to a hip-hop song, the Huskers are never short on team spirit.
Sam said part of what makes a strong leader is being someone teammates can come to and trust about various issues.
“I want to be someone respected, but also someone that they can smile with and hang out and talk to,” she said. “I don’t want to be someone that they’re scared of. I want to be a good teammate with them.”
“I don’t want them to think of me as a captain or a leader,” she added, “I want them to think of me as a friend and a teammate, just like them.”
(Photo: Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News)