16 years after Zack Greinke stepped away from Royals, mental health in sports viewed differently

Pitcher one of 1st to prioritize mental health
Royals Spring Baseball
Posted at 1:25 PM, Apr 07, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Zack Greinke has always been an interesting figure in sports, not just for his pitching style, but his demeanor.

He's famous for having moments in the dugout, or press conference answers that are very different from what fans normally expect.

A major moment in Greinke's career came in 2006 when his struggles with social anxiety and depression became known. He left spring training that season, considered leaving baseball altogether, and only made three bullpen appearances for the Kansas City Royals that entire season.

Dr. Andrew Jacobs is a renowned sports psychologist based in Kansas City and has actually worked for the Royals multiple times in the last 30 years, including the first time Greinke was on the roster.

He told KSHB 41 that the opinions surrounding mental health in sports have changed quite a bit since Greinke's struggles became public.

"Back when this first came out, (people said) ‘Here's this guy supposed to be so great, what's wrong with him? Why would he walk away?’ People don't understand the pressures and demands," Jacobs said.

A lot has changed in nearly two decades.

“The last five to eight years. The mental aspect of sports has exploded in terms of its importance,” Jacobs said. “Most professional sports teams now have some type of psychological professional involved, whether it's a psychologist or whatever. Athletes sharing their personal issues and problems has opened up a lot of people's minds to realizing they're not any different than me."

Jacobs cited the 2021 announcement from Simone Biles that she was pulling out of the Olympic Games as the latest example of athletes being more comfortable coming forward with mental health struggles.

"I think people today are more sensitive,” Jacobs said. “You don't know what's going on behind the scenes. To me, the appropriate thing is to respect that person, give them space, and let them deal with what they have to deal with."