New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia has not only taken a step forward in his baseball career but an incredible leap forward in his life.
On that day Sabathia made one of the “scariest decisions of his life” and admitted he needed help to cure his alcoholism, a disease that has captured the lives of the millions of victims along with their family and friends.
The source of Sabathia’s alcohol problem was that it brought out his looser personality, and he thought it made him more likable. Therefore, he used alcohol to supplement his non-outgoing character.
Sabathia admitted to denying he had a problem in the first place, as well as denying his condition to those who expressed genuine concern. According to his post for the Players’ Tribune, he experienced his breaking point in a hotel room last October.
Following a rainout in Baltimore, the 2009 ALCS most valuable player spent the night alone in his hotel room clearing out the mini bar while drowning in sorrow with the feeling that he could no longer help his teammates when they needed him.
Exhausted with the sense of self-pity, helplessness and whatever other painful feelings come with alcoholism, he realized he did not have to live like this.
“I’ve played in sold out stadiums. I’ve undergone numerous surgeries. And I’ve even pitched in the World Series,” Sabathia stated in his story for the Players’ Tribune. “But nothing scared me more than saying these three words: ‘I need help.'”
The 35-year old lefty and the decision to get help for the devastating disease was courageous as is, but given it was right before the Yankees competed in the 2015 postseason, it made it even more valiant.
The choice was not only respected by his coaches, fans, and teammates, but it became an inspiration for the countless individuals who have been decimated by the disease.
Four months after receiving help, Sabathia had to reclaim his value as a major league pitcher yet again.
After struggling mightily through most of the 2015 season, something clicked for the former ace in the last month of the year.
In five September starts, Sabathia posted a 2-1 record, a 2.17 ERA, and held hitters to a .224 batting average. It was nowhere close to the CC who blew hitters away with a 95+ MPH fastball, but his performance in the final six weeks of the season made room for encouragement.
However, that was before his rehabilitation which took place after his dominance in the latter part of 2015.
Barley snagging a fifth starter spot with relatively poor Spring Training, Sabathia’s comeback trail reached another major obstacle: pitching in his first regular season game, sober again.
To make that obstruction even tougher to hurdle, he had to face the tough Detroit Tigers lineup in hope to prove there’s still something left in the tank.
In his first outing of the year, Sabathia allowed three runs and four hits in six-plus innings, walking four and striking out three. CC was the first starting pitcher for the Yankees to last more than six innings in 2016.
He also retired the first nine batters he faced with the support of his wife and mother, who were both in the crowd.
“My wife and my mom, they were there every step of the way,” Sabathia told Andrew Marchand of ESPN. “Obviously, these guys in here were great, but my wife and my mom were just kind of that rock during that tough time.”
Sure, Saturday’s contest against the Tigers was a tough match-up, but the game was less about baseball and more about conquering his disease and showing people (and victims) that even a prosperous champion can be knocked down and climb out of the depths of despair.
“We have always had his back,” manager Joe Girardi said in yesterday’s post-game press conference. “The guys in that room have always had his back. And he gave us a big start today.”
What Sabathia proved on Saturday was that he is a winner, a champion, and now, thanks to cleaning his body of the evils of alcohol, his mind is clear and ready to compete again.
Sabathia is ready to dedicate 100% of himself to helping his team in the journey for a World Series title.
The left-hander will continue to work on using his cutter, change-up, and slider in order to make an Andy Pettite-like transition from flamethrower to innings eater, but it’s all because he got right at the toughest of times.
His organization believes in him, his teammates believe in him, his fans believe in him, and he now believes in himself. The feelings of helplessness are no more, and Sabathia will focus on reinventing himself as an elite starter in this sport, while becoming a better and healthier human being.