Brewers Alum Tyler Cravy Opens Up About Mental Health

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Tyler Cravy #45 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after giving up a two run home run to Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field on August 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 13: Tyler Cravy #45 of the Milwaukee Brewers reacts after giving up a two run home run to Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning at Wrigley Field on August 13, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /
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Former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Tyler Cravy had an up-and-down tenure in the big leagues, but that was only a small reflection of what was going on upstairs.

Recently, former Brewers pitcher Tyler Cravy published an article in The Players’ Tribune, and I highly recommend you read it.

In the story, Cravy details about the time he was 18 years old and his friend shot him on a hunting trip. He woke up to his friend nowhere to be seen and the guns gone and next thing he knew, he heard shots ring out and felt blood streaming down the back of his head and neck.

As you can imagine, that whole experience was traumatizing to Cravy and he hasn’t been the same since.

Baseball And Drug Addiction

Despite the traumatizing incident to which Cravy got no answers outside of that it was his friend who did it, Cravy was able to push through night terrors and anxiety to have a successful college baseball career.

When things were going well on the baseball field, everything else seemed to melt away. That led to the Brewers drafting Cravy out of Napa Valley College in the 17th round in 2009. He was assigned to the Helena Brewers, and things did not go so well.

"I mean, my first full season of rookie ball, 2010, in Helena, Montana….Talk about nightmares? That right there was a nightmare.On the field, I got hit around seemingly every time out."

Cravy’s 2010 stats with the Helena Brewers look like this: 15 games, 12 starts, 76.2 IP, 5.87 ERA, and a 1.422 WHIP.

On top of the struggles on the field, Cravy began to struggle off the field as well, being practically alone up in Montana with not much to do, anxiety started to set back in.

That’s when the drug use began.

One of his Helena teammates supplied Cravy with OxyContin, to which he got addicted to for a short while to make his arm pain go away after starts. He kept it secret from everyone. No one in the Brewers organization knew about this.

When his teammate that was supplying him got promoted to a different level, Cravy had to quit his addiction cold turkey. The withdrawal was tough.

"Almost immediately, I found myself throwing up constantly. It was like having a really bad flu 24/7, and that was actually the excuse I always used with the guys. A few times, it got so bad that I had to curl up in a ball on the team bus, just shaking and convulsing.…So I ended up quitting cold turkey, completely on my own. In secret."

The silver lining is that after he made it through the withdrawals, Cravy focused on his conditioning, workout routine, and his diet in order to improve on the field, and the results were far better.

Cravy dominated from 2012-2014, methodically working his way up the system and getting all the way up to Double-A, and posting a 1.63 ERA in 17 outings in 2014.

Anxiety And Fear Of Flying

Just as Cravy was getting into a groove and moving past his previous struggles, he details the time he was flying to his winter ball team in Venezuela in 2014 and some turbulence hit the plane.

"Later that year, I was on a flight with my winter ball team down in Venezuela and the plane ran into some turbulence. It was nothing out of the ordinary or too extreme. But for some reason I noticed myself getting very uncomfortable. I’d been on hundreds of flights before that, and never once had turbulence been an issue with me. On that day, though, something inside of me seemed to have been triggered.From that point on, I was scared to death of flying.Any time a plane I was on experienced some bumps, my whole body would respond with panic, and my brain would be telling me — screaming to me….This airplane is going down! It’s gonna crash!!! You are about to die!!!!!!In a lot of ways, it took me back to the day I got shot."

Cravy then went on to talk about how the team psychiatrist tried to help him and give some breathing exercises, or even some anti-anxiety pills, but the exercises didn’t work and he didn’t want to take any more pills.

In 2015, Cravy and his girlfriend drove from Phoenix to Milwaukee straight through, just to avoid a flight. Now that’s a drive.

Apparently, when Cravy was scheduled to start a game late in the 2015 season against the Cubs, the Brewers were just starting a road trip and had to fly out to San Diego at the end of it. The trip to San Diego was worrying Cravy more than anything.

"It should’ve been the pinnacle of my career … if not my life, to that point. But all I could think about was the upcoming flights on that road trip. Next we were set to go to St. Louis, which I figured I could grind through. But after that it was on to San Diego. I was terrified of that trip.It was like, San Diego is all the way across the country. And, We’re going to be flying in the dead of night. And, There have got to be at least a dozen storms that we’ll run into on a trip that long. And … on and on.You won’t be surprised to hear that I pitched like crap that day against the Cubs."

That game was September 22nd, 2015 against Jake Arrieta and the Cubs, and Cravy went four innings, giving up three hits, two runs, two earned, two walks, and three strikeouts. He gave up one home run to Kris Bryant. It’s not the worst outing, but the Brewers did lose that day.

The Brewers weren’t going to fly out to San Diego for another six days. Yet, it was causing so much anxiety in Cravy, that it impacted how he pitched nearly a week ahead of the trip.

If you’re wondering why the Brewers didn’t do more to help him, they didn’t know. Cravy kept everything inside.

"I never talked with my coaches or teammates about everything that had been going on with me. I never opened up to the team psychiatrist, or talked about where my anxiety may have been coming from.That guy knew nothing of the shooting, or the opioid abuse, or really anything other than the fact that I was a baseball player who didn’t like to fly on airplanes."

All of those up and down struggles lead to Cravy’s comments after not making the Opening Day roster in 2017, criticizing the Brewers organization, comments that he has deemed “regrettable” since.

Athletes Are People, Too

After that season, Cravy was out of affiliated baseball. Now he’s just living his life trying to make ends meet for his family and pay the bills every month just like the rest of us.

Just like the rest of us.

That’s something that too often gets lost in the world of sports. Professional athletes are just like the rest of us. They’re people, too. They have anxiety, they have struggles, they go through tough times. Just because they have a glamorous job doesn’t mean their life is always full of glamour.

Top level big league players that stick around for several years may have lots of money, but guys like Cravy who spent more time in the minor leagues than the majors, where they make very little money aren’t able to just retire and never have to work again with the money they made in baseball.

Even then, money doesn’t buy happiness. It buys nice things, but all the money in the world can’t help if the battles inside you are what’s causing your unhappiness. But remember, no one has to face these battles alone.

You never know what battles people are going through deep down inside. Don’t hate. Offer to help. Again, I encourage you to read Cravy’s story on The Players’ Tribune. It’s a gripping, incredible story about his life and the struggles that he faced.

Next. Will Woodruff, Burnes. and Peralta Work Together This Time?. dark

The former Brewers pitcher is living in Arizona with his family. If you have advice for him or your own story that you want to talk to him about, he’s encouraged you to DM him on Twitter at @TylerJayCravy.

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