Diekman uses personal experiences to help kids with IBD
Though lefty reliever Jake Diekman’s stint with the Red Sox was just a few months, his impact on the community was meaningful enough that he was nominated for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award by his former club.
Diekman was traded from Boston to the White Sox on Aug. 1 for catcher Reese McGuire, but he had already made his mark on the Boston community.
The Roberto Clemente Award is given annually to the player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.
Every year, each MLB club nominates a player to be considered for the award in tribute to Clemente's achievements and character.
Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 10, Diekman was in remission for most of his life until 2014. During the '14 offseason, Jake’s ulcerative colitis flared up and caused him to lose 20 pounds in just two weeks. During his experience, Jake came up with his personal mantra “Gut It Out,” and used that phrase to both persevere, and also to launch his foundation in '17.
Diekman offered his support to the gastroenterology department at Boston Children’s Hospital during his time with the Red Sox.
“When we started our foundation, it was just [to share],'I know what it is like to have Crohn’s and colitis when I was little',” Diekman said. “I know that kids don’t really want to talk about that stuff to doctors or the parents. But when they see me and I’m able to play in the big leagues still and I’m very outspoken, and I’ll talk to kids about anything about it -- or having a bag or taking medication. They slowly start warming up and being open with me. It’s really good.”
Back on May 19, which was National IBD Day, Jake and his wife, Amanda, hosted the Gut It Out traveling support group at Fenway Park.
In collaboration with the New England chapter of the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, more than 100 members of the IBD community were able to come together and connect with each other and Jake as well. He answered every question they had while sharing his own story. One attendee even showed off her matching “Gut It Out” tattoo -- which was a tangible testament to Jake’s impact.
Jake and Amanda hope to be able to host the traveling support group at each MLB ballpark.
To be nominated for an award that has Clemente’s name on it is humbling for Diekman.
“He was amazing as a baseball player, but as a person, to hear stories or watch documentaries or people talking about him -- however good he was on the baseball field, he was 10 times that off the field,” Diekman said. “So, even to be a nominee is unreal. And you just try to help as many people as you can."
As much as Diekman loves to get out of a bases-loaded jam with a big strikeout or a double play, what he has accomplished off the field might be more gratifying to him.
“I don’t know if there’s any more of a high than helping someone or having a kid talk about something that they are going through physically or that they haven’t really told their parent or doctor,” Diekman said. “And then everyone, including their parents, are in shock that they are opening up that much. Yeah, I think that’s like a high you can’t really quantify.”