If you play third base for a high school softball team as strong as Scarborough, you often take a position roughly 15 feet from the batter to defend bunts. You wear a facemask in case of a screaming line drive, but you can’t be squeamish.

Emily Jefferds, a 17-year-old junior, laughed at such a suggestion. “No, not at all,” she said.

Not only does Jefferds trust her quick hands for protection, she feels comfortable poking herself in the stomach with needles for necessary injections of insulin. She does it eight to 10 times a day because she has Type 1 diabetes.

Diagnosed at age 7, Jefferds not only learned to manage her disease through blood-sugar testing and injections. She also advocates for research, raising money and traveling to Washington to speak with members of Congress, including Sen. Susan Collins and Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Jefferds, who also plays shooting guard in basketball, was honored as The Better Neighbor at the Varsity Maine Awards.

“When I think of Emily, I just smile,” said Tom Griffin, Scarborough’s softball coach, who also taught Jefferds in middle school. “Just a wonderful spirit about her, an absolute joy to be around.”

Griffin said Jefferds is a solid hitter who is starting to drive the ball more this year and is “probably the most improved kid from last year to this year.”

After every class and practice, he said, Jefferds made a point to say thank you. Dealing with diabetes helped her mature.

“There are times she’s low and she’ll let me know,” Griffin said. “I haven’t had to take her out of a game yet, but some practices she’s had to sit for a while and get some sugar in herself.”

Jefferds credits her grandmother, Loretta Hothersall, an advocate for the American Diabetes Association, for inspiration. Jefferds has spearheaded fundraising walks, bike rides and even a pajama day when she was in fifth grade.

“She’s got a special gift, this kid,” Hothersall said. “She likes telling people, ‘This is what it’s like to live with diabetes. Please help me to find a cure.’ ”

Jefferds said there are Type 2 diabetics in her family. According to the ADA, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year and about one in 400 people younger than 20 have it.

“I know what I have to go through,” said Jefferds, who is considering medical biology as a field of study in college. “I just don’t want other people to go through that, so I really would like to get a cure as soon as possible and make a stop to this.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

[email protected]

Twitter: GlennJordanPPH