Athletes opening up about their mental health is becoming more and more common. Astros pitcher Justin Verlander became the latest player to do so in a feature in Bleacher Report Magazine where he talked about his relationship with Kate Upton and how she pulled him out of a dark place four years ago, along with how that shaped him into the pitcher he is now.
Verlander is, miraculously, in the midst of a career-year with the Astros at 35 years old. Houston leads the AL West by five games, and Verlander has a career-best 2.19 ERA. He made his first All-Star Game since 2013 this season, and he's playing for a legitimate contender.
According to Verlander, it's all because of Upton being there for him in the middle of the 2014 season. That season, Verlander posted a 4.50 ERA -- the only time in his career his ERA jumped over 4.00 -- and he went 15-12 for the Tigers. The two had known each other since 2012. They married in 2017, almost immediately after Verlander won the World Series with the Astros.
"Who knows if I'm even here if it wasn't for her?" Verlander told B/R Mag in the feature about how Upton helped him through his struggles. "She was instrumental in me not …l ike, jumping off a bridge. I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own s---."
Verlander also addressed the pressure athletes are under to remain stoic even when they're hurting, and talked about how Upton became an outlet that he needed.
"I don't like to talk to people about being hurt," he said. "As athletes, you're not supposed to. It's an excuse … But she was someone I could talk to. I mean, basically a therapist. Somebody I could trust with … worries about my career. Worries about, Can I make it? Worries about what I'm going through to get back. And just the overall s--tiness of it all."
Verlander was battling pain in his shoulder throughout the 2014 season, and thought he would require surgery. At 31, that could be career-threatening. As it turned out, his body was just in poor shape. He worked with a physical therapist, Annie Gow, to get his body back up to speed.
Verlander was traded to the Astros midseason last year as part of a rebuild in Detroit. To close out the regular season, he went 5-0 with an ERA of 1.06 and was an instrumental part of the Astros' World Series run.
Mental health has emerged to the forefront more and more in sports recently. The Spurs' DeMar DeRozan recently detailed his battle with depression, and Kevin Love talked about his issues with anxiety. Verlander is now bringing that talk to the forefront in the MLB, apparently. And he's saying that Upton, whom people once claimed was ruining his career, actually saved it.