Before the start of each Blue Springs South baseball game, coach Ben Baier goes over a special set of instructions with the umpiring crew.
It has nothing to do with the dimensions of the field or the nuts and bolts of the game itself.
He's telling them that a small tube that runs under the jersey of shortstop Colton Pogue is nothing illegal.
“As great as the kid plays, I don't want them to think he's out there juicing up during the game,” quipped Baier, whose comfort level in discussing Pogue's Type 1 diabetes proves that the Suburban Big Six Player of the Year is winning the battle against what could be a major road block for most players. “The kid is so comfortable with it. He wears an insulin pump, and we're all so used to it, we don't even really think about it. Unless …”
His voice softens, and he bows his head as he thinks back to a scary moment in Tuesday's 13-5 sectional victory over Lee's Summit West. Late in the game, Pogue called timeout in the field and trainer Patty Dinges knew exactly what was going on.
His blood sugar had dropped and he needed some juice and a moment to catch his breath.
After all, he'd hit two doubles, scored three runs and his jersey was so dirty it looked like it had been used to rake the infield.
“We all know what to do when that happens,” Baier said, shaking his head. “The kid – what can I say about the kid? He's amazing. He handles it well, his parents handle it well, his mom packs him sandwiches and juice in a backpack and he brings it to each game.
“Unless an incident like that happens, you would never know he had any type of diabetes, let alone the type that requires him to wear a pump.”
Pogue discusses his ongoing plight against diabetes in much the same fashion a teammate might use as he reads a page out of a textbook. He isn't overly dramatic and he sounds, at times, like a doctor taking a clinical approach to the matter.
Pogue, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just 4 years old, inserts a 2-inch needle into his back or hip every two days or so. A tube around the needle remains under his skin, and that is used to transport the insulin into his system.
“When I was 4, I kept eating ice all the time – it was like food and water to me – and I kept peeing and peeing and couldn't stop so my mom and dad knew something was wrong,” Pogue explained.
“I was diagnosed with diabetes and, well, since I've had it since I was 4. It's the only way of life I know. I try not to let my blood sugar get below 80 or above 200 or I start feeling it. It's like in the game yesterday – I was feeling it and I needed some juice.
“In fact, the guys on the team call me 'Juice,' because I'm always drinking juice to make sure I don't have any problems with my blood level.”
Juice was one of the items that could be found in his ever-present backpack. And, on this practice day, the pump is inserted into the left side of his back.
“I can't wear it on the left side when we play, because that's the side I slide (into base) on,” he explained, grinning. “Don't want to slide into a base and knock out the pump. That's trouble.”
The type of trouble his longtime best friend and teammate, pitcher and first baseman Austin Simms, never wants to witness.
“We've been best friends since we were 5 years old, and I've always known Colton had diabetes, but I've never really thought about it because he never talks about it or uses it as an excuse,” Simms said. “He's really an inspiration to the rest of us.”
While he does not go out of his way to talk about diabetes, Pogue said he is open to talking to any youngsters who might feel the disease could prevent them from enjoying sports.
“I talked to one little kid one time and told him I was fine, it didn't keep me from playing,” said Pogue, who also played linebacker and quarterback for the Blue Springs South football team. “If I can be a role model to any little kid, I'm there for them.
“It's going to take something a lot worse than diabetes to slow me down and keep me from playing.”