It has been a difficult year for Austin Meadows in his first season with the Detroit Tigers. And now it's over.
The former All-Star outfielder announced Friday that he will not return to the field this season due to mental health issues. He said he still plans to remain with the team, he just won't play.
Meadows' full statement:
This season has been an unfortunate struggle with a series of injuries and illness, from dealing with vertigo early on, then COVID, to bilateral tendinitis in my Achilles, and 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 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.
As Meadows mentions, he has dealt with a litany of issues this season, first hitting the injured list with vertigo on May 16, then dealing with COVID-19 in June and Achilles tendinitis in both ankles a few weeks later. He has not played in a game since June 15.
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch not only pledged the team would support Meadows in his recovery, but commended him for embracing the problem:
“I can’t say enough how proud I am of him,” Hinch said. “Maybe there’s one kid out there, maybe there’s a teammate out there, maybe an ex-teammate, maybe somebody around the league that is struggling on their own and curious whether they should call for help or even admit that they have issues that they need to work through.
“Austin has chosen the path to be proactive and help others while helping himself and getting to the next step of his recovery.”
Meadows joined Detroit only a few days before opening day in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays that sent back infield prospect Austin Paredes and a comp B draft pick.
In 36 games with the Tigers, Meadows hit .250/.347/.328 with no home runs and 11 RBI. That pace represents a step back from Meadows' production with the Rays, with whom he made an All-Star Game in 2019 and World Series in 2020.
Of course, it's been a difficult year for the Tigers, who tried to take a step forward in their rebuild with the Meadows trade and free agents like Javier Baez and Eduardo Rodriguez, but now sit in last place in the AL Central at 50-81.