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Friday, June 25, 2010

Freedom's Ohlmann Overcomes Adversity

Freedom Report: A Profile of Liam Ohlmann

By Nick Dobreff / Florence Freedom

FLORENCE, KY - Freedom Pitcher Liam Ohlmann has emerged as one of the team's most reliable options out of the bullpen.

But what people may not know about are the obstacles he's overcome to reach this point.

In March of this year, Ohlmann was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

"I had been feeling really ill for quite some time, for a little over a year, and finally figured out what it was when I got really sick and had to go to the hospital for two weeks," says Ohlmann.

Diabetes presents many obstacles for anyone inflicted with the disease, but especially for athletes, whose bodies undergo intense physical stress over the course of the long season.

"For me to prepare to go into the game, I need to elevate my blood sugar because it drops anywhere from 80-100 points when I warm up in the bullpen. So I have to make sure I eat or drink something that's high in sugar so that I feel good when I go into the game."

Some athletes, like former major league pitcher Jason Johnson, choose to wear an insulin pump during competition, which automatically regulates the flow of insulin into the body. However, Ohlmann has elected not to wear one this year and instead manually controls his insulin intake.

"I take 4 insulin shots every day. I try to make adjustments to my blood sugar with those shots, if it's too high I'll take a little more insulin if it's low, I'll take less. But at this point I don't want to have something that's permanently attached to me."

Ohlmann, only three months removed from his diagnosis, is still getting used to the difficulties that come with managing Diabetes. And as he found out a few weeks ago, it can adversely affect his pitching performance if he's not careful.

"It was a really hot and humid day, and I drank a huge thing of Gatorade but my blood sugar just wouldn't go up. I went out there and it dropped really low and I had to get taken out of the game as a result. I probably shouldn't have gone into the game at all that day but it's something I have to learn from and I learned that I really need to be honest with the coaching staff about how I'm feeling."

Affectionately called "Lunchbox" by his teammates, Ohlmann always has a few emergency snacks and supplies handy to keep his blood sugar at the proper level.

He acquired the nickname two years ago from his pitching coach with the Arizona League Brewers because of his propensity to stash food in his locker and in the bullpen. But after his diagnosis, he decided to give the name a more literal meaning.

"After I found out, I decided to get an actual lunchbox to store my meter, my snacks, some emergency sugar, all the stuff I need to keep my blood sugar up."

Through it all, he has emerged as manager Toby Rumfield's most reliable option out of the bullpen. Coming into tonight's game, he leads all Freedom relievers with a 2.76 ERA and has only allowed a run in 3 of his 18 appearances while tallying 21 strikeouts.

Ohlmann has embraced his role with the team and enjoys being out in the bullpen during games.

"The bullpen is very relaxed and upbeat. You're just trying to keep your mind and body loose for the first 5-6 innings. We get extremely focused during the opposing teams at bats because we like to plan how we're going to approach each hitter."

And he's excited about where the team is heading.

"I think the current team right now is the best team we've fielded all year. I think we're going to get hot and quiet the doubters."

When it comes to Ohlmann, doubt at your own peril.

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