In a rare episode of a baseball player being upfront, honest, and generally showing a great deal of candor, Cincinnati Red first baseman Joey Votto spoke out regarding his brief stay on the disabled list with an apparent stress disorder. It turns out that Votto had not fully reconciled with the fact that his father had passed away last August and it took a few days away from organized baseball with an ear infection to come to grips with it.
Bottom line, Joey was severely depressed and there was no amount of sporting life that could fix his sadness. Votto was taken out of a few games because of his respiratory infection but the doctors thought that there was something else deeper going on.
Via John Fay's Reds blog, here is Joey Votto in his own Canadian words with American spellings:
"I spoke to some doctors. They came to the conclusion I was dealing with obviously being depressed and anxiety and panic attacks. They were overwhelming to the point where I had to go to the hospital on two separate occasions. Once in San Diego and once - nobody had been told about - but I went to the hospital once in Cincinnati when the team was on the road.
"It was a very, very scary and crazy night. I had to call 911 at 3 or 4 in the morning. It was probably the scariest moment I ever dealt with in my life. I went to the hospital that night.
"The days I was taken off the field were little, miniature versions of what I was dealing with by myself. Ever since I've been on the DL and even the little bit before the DL, I've been really struggling with this in my private life. I'd go on the field and try to do my best and play well. I had my spurts when I'd play well. But going out on the field . . . I couldn't do it anymore because I was so overwhelmed physically by the stuff I was dealing with off the field.
"It finally seeped its way into the game. I just had to put an end to it. I really couldn't be out there. It's difficult to explain what I was going through. I couldn't do it. I physically couldn't do my job. That's what I've gone through.
We have fun with players' emotions from time to time on Walkoff Walk and sometimes we needle a vulnerable guy for the sake of a laugh. But we defend it by saying, "Hey, it's part of being a public figure, deal with it." I make no apologies for the things we've implied about, say, Scott Rolen because really, the source of his problem was just being a hard-nosed ballplayer who didn't shy away from getting hurt. Also, he reads slowly.
Votto's different. Votto had an honest-to-goodness freakout that required medical attention. Votto's also different because he put all his cards on the table, face up, for everyone to see. He gave folks like me a chance to dig his grave, but for the most part, nobody did. Except the gossipy hens who can't stop clucking and implying that Votto is stressed out and therefore must be gay. That's got nothing to do with nothing.
I appreciate Votto's candor especially because revealing his problems to the public was not absolutely necessary. We baseball fans could have accepted his return at face value without the explanations, so maybe his public revelations served a therapeutic purpose as well. It doesn't work this way for every player in every situation. The entire world would be better off having Alex Rodriguez' life kept entirely private, if only so we could get more Jon & Kate coverage in the tabloids. While I salute Votto for opening up, I will not criticize any player who keeps his lips sealed on personal issues.