Tigers slugger Austin Meadows ends 2022 season early for mental health reasons

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers outfielder Austin Meadows has stepped away from on-field baseball activities for the remainder of the 2022 season.

Meadows, who has dealt with several injuries and illnesses since May, has been around the Tigers’ clubhouse for workouts over the past few weeks and will continue to be with his teammates when the club is playing home games at Comerica Park.

For mental health reasons, Meadows has ended his season with one month remaining on the schedule.

“He wanted to share with everyone what he’s going through,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I commend him for doing it. I’m very proud of him. It’s not easy in this sport, as an athlete, as a competitor, to admit when you need help outside the normal scope of baseball. … We’ll offer him all the support we can. It’s tough to hear, but I very much feel good about the path he’s on.”

Meadows released a statement on Twitter:

“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 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.”

MORE ABOUT HIM:Austin Meadows, Tigers’ best hitter, details scary vertigo situation

The Tigers acquired Meadows, an All-Star in 2019, from the Tampa Bay Rays on April 5 in exchange for Isaac Paredes (and a draft pick). The 27-year-old finished his first season as a Tiger with a .250 batting average, zero home runs, 11 RBIs, 16 walks and 17 strikeouts in 36 games.

Meadows, under team control through 2024, last played Aug. 14 during a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo. He played 10 games for the Mud Hens over the course of three rehab assignments: June 1-5, July 6-7 and Aug. 10-14.

“The physical ailments were real,” Hinch said. “They were things he was dealing with over and over again. The last time he played, when he was on rehab, was the first time that he called me directly about it. … We’ve known for a little bit of time, but it has not been the entire season, or it wasn’t like when we first met him that we knew about it.”

Hinch has spent a lot of time talking to Meadows in the past couple weeks.

Meadows has put himself on a “great path” toward recovery, Hinch said, and has “a ton of support” from his coaches and teammates. His younger brother, Parker, plays for Double-A Erie in the Tigers’ farm system.

The Tigers, respecting Meadows’ privacy, didn’t address the mental health situation until Meadows granted them permission to do so. In conjunction with that, Meadows released his statement in hopes of using his platform as a professional athlete to assist others conflicted with mental health struggles.

Hinch praised Meadows for his choice.

“I can’t say enough how proud I am of him being willing to help,” Hinch said. “Maybe there’s one kid out there, maybe there’s a teammate out there, maybe there’s an ex-teammate, maybe somebody around the league that is struggling on their own and curious whether or not they should call for help or even admit that they have some issues that they need to work through.”

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