Joey Votto returned to the diamond for the Reds last night, but not before opening up about what has been plaguing him for several weeks. The young star has been struggling with depression arising from the death of his father (only 52) last fall. Votto gave a lengthy interview in which he courageously revealed the depth of his pain.
His father was “The guy who listened to every Reds game, the guy who taught me the game, the guy who played catch with me every day.”
After the bereavement, Votto came back to the Reds and he said
today, “The first day back I put it all on the back burner and just
played baseball from August all the way to the end of September. I
don’t want to use the word suppress, because he was in my thoughts and
I was dealing with it daily, but as powerful a moment as it was to lose
your father when he was so young, nevertheless, I did suppress it.
“Taking the time away from baseball and recovering from being sick
was the first time all my emotions that I had been pushing to the side,
that I had been struggling with in the winter, nailed me and hit me, a
hundred times more than I had been dealing with in the off-season,” he
“I came out of three separate games,” he said. “The first one (in
Arizona) was a combination of me being ill, but I could tell something
was going on because I couldn’t recover. I had this feeling of anxiety
in my chest.
“Then the second time I came out (in San Diego) and it was similar,
but the third time was in Milwaukee and I was just totally overwhelmed.
Doctors told me I was dealing with being depressed with anxiety and
“It was overwhelming me where I had to go to the hospital on two
occasions, once in San Diego,” he said. “Nobody was told about it, but
I went to the hospital when the team was on the road (Milwaukee-St.
Louis) but it was a very, very scary and crazy night. I had to call 911
at 3 or 4 in the morning — probably the scariest moment I’ve ever dealt
with in my life. Because I really though I might die“
“The days I was taken off the field were miniature versions of what
I was dealing with by myself. Ever since late May I have been
struggling with this in my private life. I’d go on the field and try to
play well, but I couldn’t do it any more because I was overwhelmed
physically with the stuff I was dealing with off the field finally
seeped its way onto the field and I finally just had to put an end to
it. I really couldn’t go out there. I physically couldn’t do my job.”
I posted the entire quotes because I found them telling. Votto is a forthright and upstanding young man, and it could not have been easy to share what he was going through. Millions suffer similarly with depression and never have to stand in front of the media to answer questions about why they couldn’t show up for work. They can suffer in privacy, and not have their manhood questioned on the radio.
There are many causes of depression. In some cases, it is an actual illness with physical causes and medical solutions. Often it arises out of a real life crisis and stress. I consoled a woman who was undergoing a difficult time at home battling illness of children, an out of work husband, ect. and I told her, “You are depressed because your life is difficult and depressing. It’s no mystery why you feel this way; there’s no shame in being overwhelmed when your life is actually overwhelming.” There are times when life is simply too much to handle. There are often spiritual factors at work in depression that as moderns, we are too quick to dismiss. There even occasions when depression is used a crutch to avoid dealing with life.
Because ‘depression’ is not an illness like the flu, we can’t ever point to any one thing and assume it is the cause. For the person suffering, the pain is real, and he or she needs more than to just swallow a pill and ‘hope it goes away’.
The most offensive thing I’ve ever read in the comments on this blog, and the only thing that ever got someone banned, was when a ‘reader’ (a Pats fan) suggested that Tony Dungy was a bad father because his son killed himself. It was an evil and ignorant thing to say. Depression and suicide are specters that lurk in the hearts of a great number of people, and I have seen both of them up close, even in my own life. When I was a teenager, I had moments where my thoughts were so dark. Had I taken my own life, it certainly would not have been my parents fault. They were loving and engaged. They also had no idea how I was feeling. They couldn’t know. I would certainly have never told them. I can barely talk about it now, years later.
When a person is profoundly depressed, he can lose perspective and forget a lifetime of truth. To ever blame a parent for his child’s suicide is beyond cruel. It implies that there was something that could have been done to prevent the tragedy, and that is often untrue.
Joey Votto is a healthy, successful young man with the world on a plate. By all accounts, he is as nice a guy and a good a person as can be asked for. None of that mattered when the darkness came. I’m proud the team helped him through this spot in his life, and applaud his courage in talking so frankly about what was happening to him . It’s not an easy thing to do.
If my team was playing Moss twice a year, I would do this too.