depression, sports

Baseball and Mental Illness

Pablo S. Torre has an article in the current Sports Illustrated [June 21, 2010] about a number of baseball players who have recently “come out” about their struggles with mental illness. The article, entitled “A Light in the Darkness,” delves into why baseball in particular seems suited to mental illness, and how Major League Baseball has taken the lead among professional sports in acknowledging and addressing emotional problems. One of the players profiled, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, was hospitalized twice last summer for major depression and anxiety attacks. He has since opened up about his recovery, acknowledging that “the stuff I was dealing with finally seeped its way onto the game.” Torre cites several factors at play for baseball players, notably the rate of failure ( “Start with the sheer difficulty of trying to connect with a spheroid less than three inches in diameter that’s moving at 95 mph”) and the solitude of eighty-one games a year on the road. There’s also the more leisurely pace, which allows “pitchers and hitters alike [to] have an enormous amount of time to sit and stew in their mistakes.”

On a separate baseball note, the Pittsburgh Pirates fired twenty-four-year-old Andrew Kurtz, one of their trusty pierogi mascots, for posting a critical comment about upper management on Facebook. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the between-innings pierogi races at PNC Park, I don’t think management can afford to be so flippant with veteran talent.

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5 thoughts on “Baseball and Mental Illness

  1. Re: the pierogi guy–so true. I do love PNC park though; the Pirates have a better stadium than any other minor league team in the country.

    I guess it’s all individual, but a part of me would think that the nature of baseball could also make someone more resilient… knowing that hitting 1 of 3 is pretty good could be liberating in a way. Compare that to the pressure on, for instance, an NFL kicker, who can hit 20 in a row and still be fired for missing the next big kick (more or less).

  2. Read the article and was totally captivated. Perhaps the saddest part of the Votto saga was the fact that some in Cincinnati looked for alternative reasons for his missing games up to and including he’s gay and not dealing with it well. Whether he is gay or not seems totally irrelevant to the fact that the guy was completely open about what he was dealing with and that still wasn’t good enough. It’s as if depression wasn’t a good enough reason so people had to come up with something they could understand and/or gossip about.

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