Ex-MLBer who nearly committed suicide admires ‘strength’ of Simone Biles

Without Simone Biles competing in the spotlight, the importance of mental health helped take her spot.

The decorated Olympian had to care for herself for reasons seen — her brain was not functioning correctly to the point that she lost herself midair, doing a different twist, on the vault Tuesday — and unseen. The pressures on professional athletes are both real and unreal.

“It’s just really cool to see because I wish I had the strength that she did before,” Drew Robinson said over the phone Thursday. “And because I didn’t, it led to a really bad decision on my end.”

The decision the recently retired baseball player made was to kill himself.

On April 16, 2020, at his home in Las Vegas, Robinson pointed a handgun at his head and pulled the trigger. Miraculously, he survived, losing his right eye, but gaining a vision and a willingness to live. He was supposed to live and, he feels, tell his story of mental hurdles that went ignored, of shutting out his friends and family, of believing his identity as an athlete overshadowed his identity as a human.

Simone Biles and Drew Robinson
Simone Biles and Drew Robinson
AP; Getty Images

Robinson does not know Biles, but he’s followed her much-analyzed situation in Tokyo, where she pulled out of the women’s team competition and then the all-around because her “mentals,” as she called them, were not right. She is focusing on herself while her team took silver without her and teammate and rising star Suni Lee grabbed gold in the all-around.

The criticism has entailed that she left the team, which probably would not have settled for silver with her healthy. Some have called her “weak,” Robinson sees the opposite.


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“It’s something that not a lot of people have the strength to do because she knows that she was going to get judged very hard for that,” said Robinson, whose first career major league home run (with the Rangers) was a Yankee Stadium blast in 2017 against Michael Pineda. “And that’s the whole idea behind all this for people that talk about [mental health] is try to make it easier for the next person. So the fact that she was willing to do that for herself, and then also just shed light on the topic, it’s going to affect a lot of other people.”

Robinson did not have the same role models or the same knowledge to get help when he struggled through depression for years, despite being a star athlete who was a fourth-round pick in 2010 out of high school and debuted in the majors in ’17.

He did not let others in and dealt with self-doubt internally until he decided to end his life while isolated and away from baseball during the pandemic.

“When I was going through something, I just didn’t have the awareness for myself to understand exactly what was happening,” Robinson said. “I just felt like crap, but I didn’t understand why or what it was. I was just going with the flow and letting bad days overtake me and then hoping for a good one.”

Maybe the next Robinson will look to him or Biles or Kevin Love or Michael Phelps and see the warning signs. If perhaps the best gymnast of all time needs to pause her life to ensure mentally she is healthy, maybe the world will see it’s OK to do the same.

Robinson has become a face of defeating the stigma and now is a mental-health advocate for the San Francisco Giants after retiring from the game last week. He has influence, but not in the same way Biles does globally at the Olympics.

“There’s probably not a bigger stage,” said Robinson, who will share his story with anyone and opened up to ESPN last year.

Since halting competition — it is unclear if she will compete in the upcoming individual events — Biles has thanked supporters for helping her “realize I’m more than my accomplishments.” Robinson had fallen into the same trap and believed his identity had to be validated by starring in baseball.

If he struggled on the field, what about off of it?

“It’s kind of like a drug,” the 29-year-old Robinson said. “You get to feel the appreciation from fans and people when you do things right. And you feel like when you’re not doing things correctly, that you yourself are a complete failure. … I didn’t have the wherewithal to understand that wasn’t the healthiest thing to do.”

Perhaps the next Biles or Robinson will.

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