Last month, Joe Record knew something was physically wrong. He had weighed 252 pounds at the start of the season. By the end of June, he weighed 227 and was feeling tired and weaker every day. Also, the velocity on all of his pitches had dropped. He told organization trainers something was affecting his performance.
Record went to Houston to have his blood tested. As he awaited his results, he prepared himself for the worst.
“When you lose that much weight, I was thinking cancer,” Record said. “As a human, that’s what my head went through.”
Doctors diagnosed Record with type 1 diabetes, putting his mind in a better place. He felt a level of stress lift off his shoulders, knowing that with proper medical guidance he could return to game action in the coming weeks.
The diagnosis surprised Record, though. In spring training, Record’s blood work displayed perfect blood sugar and glucose levels.
The specialist he visits now said no matter what he did in life, diabetes would have creeped in.
“My pancreas decided not to produce insulin anymore, and now, we’re here,” Record said.
The absence of insulin caused Record’s body to strip away nutrients from his muscles. He is now cutting down on his sugar and carbohydrate intake and consistently working out to put weight back on.
Space Cowboys strength and conditioning coach Zach Reding is also a type 1 diabetic and is providing tips to Record on how to perform under his circumstances.
“I’m not worried, stressed at all,” Record said. “(Reding) said I’ll be back in no time. I’ll build all the muscle back now that I’ve got insulin going into my body.”
Diabetes entered Record’s life amidst a resurgent season. The right-handed reliever stepped into a closer role — one he last held in 2019 with Low-A Cedar Rapids — shutting the door on 10 of his 12 save opportunities. He struck out 31 batters in 31 appearances, but his season didn’t start out as planned.
Record made his season debut March 31. He recorded one out and surrendered six earned runs on four hits and two walks.
“You just think holy shit I’m bad,” Record said. “But obviously, you have the guys around you: teammates, catch partner, coaches. They take the heat off of you for a little bit. They’re the ones who helped me get through it.”
During his first outing of the year, the score bug mistakingly dubbed Record “Recordsby,” a combination of his last name and fellow Space Cowboys pitcher Jimmy Endersby.
“A few weeks later (my dad) very jokingly said, ‘I’m glad they got your name wrong, that wasn’t my kid pitching out there,’” Record chuckled.
Record’s dad wasn’t the only one who made light of Record’s first outing. As Record walked back to the dugout that day, a spectator stood up, pointed at him and told him to go back to Bass Pro Shop. The fan’s humor cheered Record up at his lowest point. It helped him put the outing behind himself.
“I know I’m a dawg. I know I’m good,” Record said. “So let’s just go after ‘em. Who cares about that? The ERA is already gone. No one needs to worry about that.”
Not long after, Record shaved his handlebar mustache and turned into the pitcher he knew he could be. He posted a 2.18 ERA with 31 strikeouts over his next 33 innings, limiting opposing hitters to a .198 batting average.
Record pitches with a mentality akin to Samuel L. Jackson’s character, Jules Winnfield, in Pulp Fiction. In the movie, Jules Winnfield carries a wallet that reads, “Bad Mother Fucker.” Record has printed that phrase inside of all of his hats.
“That gets me going,” Record said. “No matter what happened before, I practiced harder than the guy in the box. They don’t deserve to beat me. I’m going to bully them, and I feel like I’m the best guy on the mound, even though I may not be. I’m not (Jacob) deGrom, Shane Bieber or Framber Valdez, but I feel like that.”
The Space Cowboys placed Record on the 7-day injured list July 7. He has known about his type 1 diabetes diagnosis for over a week now, but he’s planning to return by the week of July 25, when the Space Cowboys begin a six-game series with the Las Vegas Aviators.
Record’s minor-league contract will expire at the end of this season, though. The Houston Astros selected Record in the 2020 Rule 5 Draft from the Minnesota Twins, but Record doesn’t know what the future holds beyond this year.
“Hopefully, day in, day out, I keep producing, getting better,” Record said. “I’d love to just be an Astro again. … But if not, hopefully, I get another chance somewhere else.”