Votto: 'I felt I was going to die'
Joey Votto pretty much laid it all on the table and explained the stress related issue that put him on the disabled list. His 52-year-old father, Joseph, died suddenly in August and that grief came to the surface this year. Here are some snippets of what he said.
“The first day back, I put that all on the back burner and just played baseball until the end of Septmeber. He was in my thoughts and I was dealing with it on a daily basis but as powerful a moment that was to lose your father so young, in a way, I did suppress it. From the beginning of the off-season until Spring Training, I was pretty severely depressed and dealing with the anxieties of grief, sadness and fear and every single emotion you can imagine everyone goes through. I habd a really difficult time with it. I was by myself down in Florida. I just was really looking forward to baseball. And when baseball started back up in February, I kind of did the same thing I did last August and threw it all on the side, threw all of my emotions on the backburner and just played baseball again.”
“I got sick in May. I had the upper respiratory thing. I had an ear infection. It was taking the time away from baseball and recovering from being sick was when the first time all my emotions I hads been pushing to the side, that I had been dealing with and really struggling with on a daily basis in the winter, they all hit me. And they hit me 100 times harder than I had been dealing with all off-season.”
Votto admitted that anxiety/panic attacks prompted him to seek medical help twice — once in San Diego and once in Cincinnati.
“I went to the hospital in Cincinnati when the team was on the road. It was a very, very scary and crazy night where I had to call 911 at three or four in the morning. It was probably the scariest moment I ever had dealt with in my life and I went to the hospital that night.”
“There were nights that I couldn’t be alone. The one night I was alone – the very first night I was alone – was when I went to the hospital. I couldn’t take it. It just got to the point where I felt I was going to die, really.”
On how the Reds handled his issue:
“Every single person in the Reds organization has done everything more than I could have asked for. They surprised me with how supportive they are in general.”
On coming back to play in his hometown of Toronto?
“Honestly, we could play in Timbuktu for all I care, just as long as I’m playing all nine innings and contributing. There’s nothing like health. I look forward to feeling healthy on a consistent basis.”
When did he know he was ready to play again?
“I was having such a difficult time getting through the night that once I felt like I could get through two or three nights of sleep without having the phone besides me and worrying about having to call the hospital, I felt like I could start playing ball again.”
How was Votto able to be successful this season on the field going through this?
“I think I’m a pretty good player, first of all. Baseball was my refuge. When I came on the field, I did my job, and did the best I could and focused on that. Then I went home and I was miserable. That was pretty much my routine every day.”
Is he worried about the stigma of stress disorders?
“I’ve been lumped into the Khalil Greene, Dontrelle Willis, Zach Greinke category. I’m not saying one way or the other about those guys because I don’t know what they’re dealing with. But I do know I’ve had a real struggle with my father’s passing. It’s really something I’ve had a real hard time with. It was my biggest hesitation coming out and letting people know, letting my teammates know. We’re supposed to be known as mentally tough and able to withstand any type of adversity. This is real life [stuff]. I couldn’t take it. I think a lot of people deal with this.”
On his relationship with his father in terms of baseball?
“He was a very important person. He would watch every single Reds game. He was the first one to teach me how to play baseball. I played catch with him on a daily basis when I was really young. He was a big fan. He was just in love with what I did and me. He was a great father to me.”
On being taken out of games in Arizona, San Diego and Milwaukee:
“I literally couldn’t stand up. The way you saw me in Arizona where Dusty had to walk me off was similar to the two other occurrences in Milwaukee and San Diego. Although Arizona was a pretty rough time, Milwaukee was by far the worst. I thought I was going to go crazy.”
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