Monday, November 9, 2015


Sometimes strength is not apparent when it precedes bad news or a tough loss.  And when you are an athlete in New York, it is even more difficult to see beyond the headlines and assumptions that often blind the truth from the onlooker. Helen Keller once said, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved." This character is CC Sabathia and his strength has been hidden from even himself until that day in early October.  “I woke up on that Sunday and was like, I can’t do this no more,’ ” Sabathia said during an extensive interview this week with the Daily News at Roc Nation headquarters. “I came in on Sunday and felt like I needed to get some help. I know it was bad timing, but I felt like if I didn’t tell somebody then, I would have been in real trouble.”

Coming clean to his coaching staff, teammates and fans, Sabathia demonstrated the strength of a true champion; one who is willing to step up and get help instead of backing down and giving in to an addiction that strangled him for three years after hovering over him for most of the life.   “I was tired of being in the dark about it, hiding about it. I had dealt with it from the end of ’12 all the way up until that point. It was just exhausting. That was more exhausting than actually drinking — trying to hide the drinking.”

For so long, Sabathia, isolated himself from the world.  He would pull away, drink alone to deal with the stress of being on the road; reminding himself of the addictions that plagued his childhood.  “I grew up around enough drugs that I know not to touch them,” Sabathia said. “My dad didn’t drink; he used drugs. I grew up around drinking, though. I picked up drinks when I was 14 for the first time," stated Sabathia.  During his month-long stay in the Connecticut rehab facility, the 35-year-old pitcher learned a lot about himself and his disease, which he says is much like an injury that you have take care of and battle beyond.

I have to say, as a mother of two teens, it can be very challenging to stay strong alongside the difficulties and challenges of every day life.  But when your 14-year-old says she is proud of you for something you did, it overwhelms you.  It changes you.  "Mom, when I saw you in those bright pink sneakers, running down the street with that blind man at the New York City Marathon, I was so proud of you." I can't tell you what that means and for CC Sabathia to have his son say, "I am proud of you," must mean everything to him.  "We talked about my father and his struggles that he had going through rehab, and me just trying to break the cycle and be better for him and in the long run for his kids,” Sabathia said. “It was actually a good conversation we had. I think he gets it. He’s a smart kid.”

I know fans will say what they want to say.  I know I say what I want to say when I feel disappointed with someone.  We may taunt and jeer and make comments that aren't so nice because we are hurt and ashamed and perhaps embarrassed with that person.  CC Sabathia is just human.  He isn't surreal.  He isn't a character in a Hollywood film or a classic piece of literature.  He is a person and he has fears which he is willing to face.  Oprah Winfrey said it best when she said, "Whatever you fear most has no power - it is your fear that has the power." CC isn't afraid to face the fans, face the field and go back to the game he loves.

In about 100 days, Sabathia will be heading to spring training and the challenges will face him head on again.  “It’s going to be hard, but I have different things that I can do now,” Sabathia said. “Pick up a book, play some video games, go out with my teammates, do stuff that I like to do and get back to my old self. I think the biggest thing for me is not isolating myself and feeling like I need something to do."  Recognize strength when you see it and don't throw stones unless you feel you haven't fallen on hard times yourself and perhaps made a bad choice or two.  We all make excuses for how we behave or how we feel, but at the end of the day, the weak continue to give into the excuses and the strong, rise up to do something about it.  Love him or hate him or perhaps you are somewhere in between, CC Sabathia did something very brave and very transparent.  He stood up to his addiction and his team and said, "not one more day."  Recognize strength when you see it because when you see it, it changes you for good.

--Suzie Pinstripe, BYB Senior Staff Writer
BYB Hot Stove Columnist
Twitter: @suzieprof

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