The Wisdom of Dusty Baker

No, that isn’t sarcasm. Baker is 100% on point with this observation, made in connection with Joey Votto’s stress issues:

“Nobody knows who it is going to affect and when it is going to affect anybody. You deal with pressure every day in this game. People throw the money issue in your face all the time. There is a lot more coverage. It’s a high-pressure world. Sports is one of the few professionals where you reach your goal at a very young age. Most guys reach their goals between their 40s and 50s. Maintaining a balance in your life can be a very tough thing. The game can become all-encompassing, day and night. It wakes you up in the middle of the night. It does me and I’m not even playing.”

I couldn’t imagine having to deal with even the relatively mundane stresses I have in my life now when I was in my early 20s, so I can only imagine that dealing with everythng a ballplayer has thrown at them is amazingly tough for a kid that age. While most of them deal with it just fine, the ones that don’t are lucky if they have someone with Dusty Baker’s obvious intelligence, experience and empathy hanging around. Baker says that he’s “not worried about Joey.” If I’m Joey Votto, that’s probably exactly what I need to hear.

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Bob Timmermann
13 years ago

Anxiety attacks can be a side effect from inner ear infections.

The two conditions can then feed off each other. Your anxious so you feel dizzy and then you feel dizzy and get anxious.

Bob Timmermann
13 years ago

BTW, I just read about the connection between the two connections. But now it does sort of make sense why I got all anxious back in college (1985ish) when I started getting dizzy spells and vertigo.

Go figure.

Ken Arneson
13 years ago

I think we need better language to describe this stuff.  There’s a normal, psychological anxiety that’s a reaction to life events.  Those psychological inputs create certain physical outputs:  shortness of breath, increased heart rate and blood pressure, inability to concentrate.

Those exact same physical outputs can be triggered by something entirely non-psychological, like an ear infection.

We call both of these outputs “anxiety”, even though they have different inputs.

It’s a mistake to assume that Votto’s anxiety is caused by the pressures of the job.  It may be caused by nothing whatsoever.  The fight-or-flight system sometimes flips out for no discernable reason at all.

The confusion in terminology is exacerbated by the fact that the physical output system loops back into the psychological system.

I had a panic attack once.  It happened while I was loading dishes into the dishwasher.  Did the stress of doing dishes cause my panic attack?  No, that’s silly.

But having once had a panic attack while doing dishes, for the next several months, doing dishes suddenly became a stressful activity.  I had to retrain my mind that doing dishes is a harmless activity, by doing more dishes.

None of that makes the point about the pressures of the MLB job invalid.  We often ask these young people to act like gods before they’ve even had a chance to become men.

13 years ago

Actually, anxiety attacks can be related to a whole lot of things, for the same reason—you feel your heart beating fast, it makes you anxious, it beats faster, etc.  People often start to fear they’re dying or going insane, and then of course the symptoms get worse.  Ah, the joys of classical conditioning.

As for Dusty Baker’s comments, I’ve often thought of that when I have a bad day or I’m feeling kinda grumpy.  We all have those days, and worse.  Imagine if, on that day, and every day after, I was expected to perform in front of a national audience?  Not to mention the times when something truly awful happens in one’s life, which you may or may not be able to discuss publicly, plus their age…  Truly, it’s amazing professional athletes don’t fall to pieces or do crazy stuff more often than they do.

13 years ago

Just keep not clogging up the bases and everything should just fine.

13 years ago

Feel better soon, Joey.  I suffer from high anxiety myself – I can’t imagine tolerating the press and the limelight on a daily basis like you do.  Glad Dusty could say something as intelligent, thoughtful and endearing.

Aaron Moreno
13 years ago

At this young man’s age I would freak out over a damn break-up or getting fired from a minimum wage job. Lord knows what I would do with millions on the line and the country watching.

13 years ago

I agree with Aaron Moreno’s comment.

The thing is that the guys who can make it at the big level are the elite of the elite.  Not only do they have un-Godly physical talent and unworldly desire and work ethic to make it to the major leagues, they also need to be mentally and emotionally strong.

That’s not to say that Votto is weak. I’m just saying that maybe he won’t succeed at this level because he has the physical and work ethic requirements but maybe not the mental part of it.  I hope I’m wrong about him.