By Jerry Del Priore
Former Brooklyn Cyclone Joe Jiannetti was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, an autoimmune disease that destroys the body’s ability to produce insulin, a hormone needed to control blood glucose, at the age of 15.
The 11-year former minor leaguer knows how difficult it is to manage the disease while playing professional baseball. That’s why he gives back to any diabetes fundraising and awareness cause whenever possible.
Jiannetti will be participating in SlamT1D’s 3rd annual Slam Fuld Tampa Classic wiffleball tournament at the University of South Florida (USF) Saturday as part of Hannah Phleps’ Sick of Pricks Team.
Hanna is the daughter of Josh Phelps, a former major leaguer whom Jiannetti played with while a member of the Bridgeport Bluefish of the independent Atlantic League.
Fuld—the organizer of the event along with SlamT1D, a nonprofit supporting children, families, and adults living with Type I diabetes—is a major leaguer who last played with the Oakland A’s in 2015 before missing the ’16 season due to surgery on his left rotator cuff. He also happens to be a Type I diabetic who was diagnosed at the age of 10.
Therefore, there’s a personal connection that goes from Jiannetti to Hanna to Phelps, spurring a fundraising effort to find a cure.
“I am doing this because I am a Type I diabetic and this Foundation works directly for finding a cure for Type I diabetes,” explained Jiannetti, who reached AA with the Mets in 2004. “With the money raised during this event, they helped fund research for Type I diabetes as well as giving scholarships to children to go to diabetes camps and learn about the disease.”
There will be various wiffleball stadiums setup to replicate real Major League ballparks, such as a Mini Fenway and a Little Yankee Stadium, among other fields.
MLB players that have been part of past events include Matt Moore, Chris Colabello, Kevin Kiermaier, Andrew Miller and Jose Bautista, to name a few.
As for furthering his knowledge to assist diabetes patients, Jiannetti is currently in his second year of pharmacy school at LECOM Bradenton. He belongs to an organization at the college called APHA, American Pharmacist Association, in which it works with other groups to teach diabetics how to manage their condition better.
“In that group, I work with a specific group called Operation Diabetes (chaired by Ashley Beachy) where we focus on diabetic related issues,” he said, “such as testing blood sugars, counseling patients about diabetes, how to control your blood sugars on a daily basis and just in general how to live life as a diabetic.”
To donate to Sick of Pricks or any of the other 15 teams, log onto www.crowdrise.com/samfuldclassic. The event’s goal is to raise $100,000, with some of the proceeds going to Fuld’s diabetes camps for children. You can donate up until the end of the year.