January 31, 2018

Marco Estrada: A True Gamer

Giving it his all through physical and mental adversity.

Marco Estrada is not one to make excuses, He’s what they refer to in pro sports as a gamer; the kind of guy that perseveres and fights through the pain. Through a major chunk of the 2016 season, he pitched with a herniated disc in his back. Estrada told us on Outta the Park that there were times where he “couldn’t bend down to pick up the ball.” He still made 29 starts and pitched 176 innings that year, and whenever asked, downplayed the severity of his back injury. “I want to be out there every 5 days. It’s gotta be something extremely bad, making it not physically possible to be out there,” Estrada says.

Last season, Estrada was also battling pain, but this time it wasn’t physical. Stress and anxiety were causing him many sleepless nights. There were times last year when he’d take the ball for a day game, having not slept a wink the night before. He was going through a bad stretch on the mound, and while his battles with mental health were a major reason why, the last thing Marco, the gamer,  wanted was to use that as an excuse for the poor outings he was having. He didn’t want to share his internal struggles with anyone. Even when the subject was broached on Outta the Park, Estrada, being the battler he is, didn’t want to make a big deal out of something that, in reality is a huge factor. “I hate even talking about this because I don’t want to use it as an excuse”

Pro athletes, in their pursuit of excellence, often appear superhuman, but they are still only human. Strip it all down and they are just like us; they miss their families when they are away for long periods of time, they hear it when people criticize,  and they are not immune to mental health issues. The combination of trade rumours and struggles on the mound in 2017 ended up leading Estrada down a path he wasn’t prepared for. “It was a lot of little things that snowballed into a big thing.

To hear more of Estrada’s story, in his own words, on Outta the Park Episode 43, please click here.

Anxiety doesn’t play favourites and no one is immune. A common symptom is to always expect the worse. For a ball player it could be a physical ailment that you worry is something terminal or worry that you won’t perform favourably that day on the field. This is not a weakness or an excuse and sometimes the more you try to fight the feelings, the worse it gets. You end up overthinking everything and spend nights in bed, worried about things you have no control over. One can only imagine the fortitude it took for Estrada to even take the mound, knowing what he was dealing with, but he’s not an excuse maker. He shows up to work, takes the ball, and gives everything he has.

Fortunately, for Estrada, under the guidance of a strong support system, he now has things under control. He’ll head to spring training feeling great both physically and mentally. “It is passed me now. I’ve been sleeping great for months now. Unfortunately these things happen, I didn’t think they would ever happen to me but they have been…the mind is extremely powerful”

Marco Estrada may appear like a magician on the mound, making hitters look silly, chasing his changeup. But like you and me, he’s only human. His body hurts when it’s injured and when anxiety and stress hit, it’s going to affect his mental state…Not an excuse…just the facts.

Watch the full interview with Estrada on Outta the Park

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