04/23/2010 3:17 PM ET
A's Duchscherer: Enjoying the game
Right-hander happy to be back after battling injury, depression
I missed all of last year due to elbow surgery and clinical depression. Even going back to 2008, when I made the All-Star team and got to go to Yankee Stadium, I remember being proud of the achievement but unable to really enjoy it. I just wasn't in the right place mentally.
But, going into the season this year, I feel I'm more aware of what's in front of me. I'm more appreciative of the game. I'm able to come to a big league stadium and feel what it's like to be here in a big league uniform.
Before I felt like I was going through the motions, just trying to get through stretches, but now my perspective has shifted from thinking of baseball as a job to thinking of baseball as a game. Earlier on in my career I had an impression that all Major Leaguers were supposed to be tough and unemotional. We were supposed to be like robots. I held up that façade as long as I could before I realized I was lying to myself. For me it became an unbearable burden.
Through talking with a psychologist, I realized I was human like everyone else. I have the same feelings, and I have the same struggles. Facing that head-on was the best thing I ever did. Now I'm not embarrassed to say I struggle a bit or get anxious for a game, and sometimes there's a little fear there. But, I don't have that fear of failure like I used to.
There was a lot of stuff going on in my life that led up to it. I was going through a divorce, and I have a 6-year-old boy who lives with his mom and who I don't get to see as much as I'd like. That would be stressful on anyone.
I avoided dealing with the situation and just pushed those emotions to the side. I tried to act like all that stuff didn't affect me. I found out that I had to change my mindset about life. I had to summon the strength to get through it by telling myself that it was OK and that I would get through it. Everyone struggles with things in his or her life. Those things may not be exactly what I was dealing with, but most people have difficulties to face.
I bought into the attitude that, as athletes, we were supposed to be superhuman. I finally came to realize that I wasn't superhuman. I figured out that just because I was wearing this uniform didn't mean I was immune to struggling with issues that everyone deals with. That really helped me get better and to the place where I am today.
When I first went public with the news of my depression, I had some fears and reservations. You never know how people are going to perceive you. I think I just got to the point where I was comfortable with myself. Whatever someone else had to say was what it was. I wasn't going to take anything personally. It doesn't affect me like it used to. I just worry about myself. I can't control what other people do or say. I just try to make myself and my game the best I can.
I've had a couple of people come up to me and say they read about my story and that it helped them or helped them help someone else they knew. To know that I may have helped someone makes me feel good about speaking up.
Needless to say, I'm excited to be back as part of a team. My velocity and arm strength aren't where I want them to be yet, but I appreciate just being here with my teammates and having fun. My teammates have really picked me up and made me feel like everything is OK.
Justin Duchscherer, who entered professional baseball as an eighth-round draft pick by the Red Sox in 1996, is 1-0 with a 2.41 ERA in his first three starts in 2010. The 32-year-old right-hander has pitched for Oakland since 2003.