Detroit —Unless you’ve struggled with mental illness, especially if you struggled with it in the public glare, you can’t know the courage it took for Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows to come forth with his struggles.
In a statement he released on his own Friday afternoon, he wrote:
“This season has been an unfortunate with a series of injuries and illnesses, from dealing with vertigo early on, then COVID, to bilateral tendinitis in my Achilles, then having to go through the rehab process each time.
“What I have told very few people is that I also have been struggling with my mental health in a way that has extended my time away from the game that I love so much. I’ve been dealing with this privately with a great team of professionals, but I need to continue to put in the hard work off the field towards feeling mentally healthy.
“While I’ve been back in the clubhouse the past few weeks, and plan to remain with the club through the end of the season, I am still not ready to return to the field. I am so grateful for my family, my teammates and the Tigers organization for supporting me through this. I can’t do this alone, and I hope in sharing my experience I can touch at least one person who might be going through their own struggles and encourage them to reach out to someone for help.”
Meadows, 27, hasn’t played since June 15 and manager AJ Hinch said he would not play again this season.
“Clearly he wanted to share with everyone what he is going through and I commend him for doing it,” Hinch said. “I’m very proud of him. It’s not easy in this sport, as an athlete and a competitor, to admit when you need help outside the normal scope of baseball.
“We will offer him the most support that we can, and we have been. It’s tough to hear but I very much feel good about the path he’s on.”
Meadows, as he has been during this homestand, was out on the field Friday running and doing agility work with strength and conditioning coach Steve Chase. Hinch said those workouts would continue through the end of the season, though Meadows won’t travel to the road games.
“He will continue to work with people behind the scenes here and also in his own personal space and continue putting one foot in front of the other and get to the end of the season,” Hinch said. “He’s on a good path, surrounded by a lot of great people. He’s got a ton of support and will continue to get a ton of support.”
Hinch said Meadows alerted him to his mental health struggles during his last rehab assignment, which ended on Aug. 14.
“The physical foods he’s dealt with were real,” Hinch said. “They were things he was dealing with over and over again. The last time he played was the first time he called me directly about (the mental issues).”
Meadows, acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in April for infielder Isaac Paredes, played in 36 games for the Tigers this season.
“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of him for speaking out and being willing to help,” Hinch said. “Maybe there is one kid out there, maybe there is a teammate or somebody around the league who is struggling on their own and is curious whether they should call for help or admit that they have some issues they need to work through.
“Austin has chosen to be proactive and help others while hopefully helping himself in getting to the next stage of his recovery.”