HAGERSTOWN, Ind. – Drew Pyle was a freshman at Hagerstown High School when he found himself getting thirsty often and getting up to use the bathroom multiple times a night.
He was 14 years old, starting off his career as a high school athlete, and on his way to what has turned into a Division I college baseball scholarship.
A trip to the clinic found that Pyle had Type 1 diabetes.
And while his athletic career wasn’t affected too much, his entire family had plenty of questions.
So did his basketball coach, Bobby Jones, who wanted to make sure he was prepared in case Pyle ever had an episode during practice or a game.
Little did Jones and Pyle know at the time, it was only the start of a very unique coach-player relationship.
Earlier this summer, Jones’ 3-year-old daughter, Lynley, was also diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and the father and Pyle have developed a bond through adversity.
“Now, having to deal with that in our household and seeing our little daughter have to go through it kind of hits home,” said Jones, who is in his 10th year as Hagerstown High School’s boys basketball coach.
“At the same time, I can relate to Drew a lot more and I kind of lean on him when I’ve got questions and he’s been very helpful answering questions about me and my daughter and kind of helping us get through that, too.”
Pyle, who recently signed to pitch for Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne, doesn’t mind helping.
“It’s different,” he said. “Usually the coaches are the ones helping the players, but I’m going to do anything I can to help him through it.”
‘Can I still play sports or not?’
Drew Pyle was on his fall break during his freshman year when his mother noticed him running a little slower than usual.
He was drinking a lot more water than usual and getting up to use the bathroom multiple times in the middle of the night.
His mother insisted they get him checked out.
“I personally didn’t feel bad at all, because it developed slowly, but my mom noticed I was being really slow when I was running,” Pyle said.
“I’d drink a bunch of waters at night, I realized that, and I was getting up to use the restroom a lot in the middle of the night. So she thought something was wrong, and I was like, ‘No, I’m fine.’”
They wanted over the weekend to go to a clinic and have him tested, and that’s where he found out he was diabetic.
Drew knew close to nothing about the condition.
“I was shocked, because I didn’t think it could happen to me,” Drew Pyle said. “I’m in decent shape and my first question was, ‘Can I still play sports or not?’ because I had no clue at all. They were like, ‘Yeah,’ and when they said I could, I was just like, ‘OK, well, it’s just something that I have to live with now.’”
According to the American Diabetes Association, “about 193,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes” and approximately just 5 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes.
“In Type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage their condition and live long, healthy lives.”
“My mom, she was with me when I was diagnosed and she was so surprised,” Drew Pyle said. “She was so shocked. She always said she didn’t figure I would be the one in the family to get it, she figured it would be one of my parents or someone else in the family.”
‘You never hear the kid complain’
Pyle’s first question was whether or not he could play sports.
During his middle school years, Pyle helped Hagerstown’s 11-12 Little League All-Stars win a state championship and compete for an opportunity to advance in the Little League World Series.
He’s played tennis, baseball and basketball for Hagerstown, though he’s focused on baseball and basketball for the last two years, and unless you know he has it, it’s hard to tell from watching him at the gym.
“I think it was two years ago he got diagnosed with it, and you’ll never hear the kid complain,” Jones said. “He takes very good care of himself, his parents are on top of it.
“When Drew first got diagnosed with it, the family had a lot of questions and I had a lot of questions on, talking to his mom and what we need to be prepared for, so on, so forth, taking care of him in case he has an episode, but hasn’t really gotten to that point since Drew takes really good care of his body.”
‘It hit close to home’
Jones, who works as a manager at the Richmond Lowes, was coming home from a basketball camp this summer when his wife, Chelsea, had a pediatrician visit with Lynley, their 3-year-old daughter.
“She had been sick for about a week,” Bobby Jones said. “We thought it was just due to the heat, it was like 80-90 degrees that week and she was drinking a lot of water and going to the bathroom a lot.
“Long story short, they did the finger-prick and the urine sample and they came back she had a lot of sugar and she got diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.”
As surprised as Drew was to found out he had Diabetes, he was awestruck to learn about his coach’s daughter.
“I was really surprised to hear that his daughter had it,” Drew said. It’s so random, you never know who has it or who can get it. Once he told me that his daughter had it, I was shocked and he’s asked me a bunch of questions about what I do to control it or how I do certain things and I’ll tell him and he’ll go home and try them and he’ll tell me how his daughter responds to it, and we’re just helping each other with the process.”
Managing the condition
Pyle started treating his diabetes with insulin shots, but switched to an insulin pump after that. He doesn’t wear it during competition, but said he doesn’t often need it.
“I wear a pump every day and put the amount of carbs I eat into it, and it gives me my insulin,” he said. “I’m not comfortable wearing it during games or anything. If I have it off for a long time, for two hours or something like that, I’ll put it on, take a little bit of insulin, take it off right quick.”
Jones said Lynley’s adjusted well to daily finger pricks and insulin shots.
“Really, in my opinion, when kids are that young and they get diagnosed with something like that, in a lot of ways it’s better because they’re so young and that’s something that she’s got to grow up with,” Jones said.
“I couldn’t imagine being Drew, being a teenager and having to change the way you eat and the way you take care of your body, but he’s done a great job with that. I’ve got so much respect for Drew in watching him going through what he’s going to and not use that as a crutch, per se. You’re never going to hear him complain.”
Jones added that he and Chelsea just recently signed Lynley up for gymnastics and hasn’t slowed down.
“Other than the daily fingerpricks and the insulin shots, it really haven’t slowed our daughter down,” he said. “She’s 3 years old, we just got her started in gymnastics. She’s going to lead a normal, healthy life. That’s just going to be something she’s going to have to manage for the rest of her life.”
“You can still do great things”
Lynley’s just getting her gymnastics career started. Pyle is one of three seniors on Hagerstown’s boys basketball team, where Jones has won 117 games in 10 years.
The Tigers were 1-1 entering Friday’s Tri-Eastern Conference opener at Union County.
Pyle helped Hagerstown’s Little League All-Stars win a Little League state championship in 2013, and advance to the Great Lakes Regional.
Since his arrival to Hagerstown High School, the baseball team has a 54-18 record and the Tigers currently have six consecutive Tri-Eastern Conference titles and back-to-back sectionals.
As a junior, Pyle pitched a five-inning no-hitter in the sectional championship game and was among the state leaders with 103 strikeouts.
Pyle ranked fifth in Class A and ninth overall with his 103 K’s, while going 8-1 from the mound with a 1.01 ERA. He also hit .307 with 27 hits, 13 RBIs, 10 doubles and a home run.
Pyle’s advice doesn’t stop with Bobby and his family. He has a word of advice for anyone going through what he’s experienced.
“I just want to say, if there’s kids out there that have (diabetes), don’t get down on it,” Pyle said. “Don’t think you can do everything else someone else can. It’s, not really harder, there’s just more to it. You have to watch yourself more. It’s helped me actually stay in shape more, because if you do that, then you can control it.
“Just don’t think that because you have it you’re held back or anything. You can still do great things.”