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Blue Jays Pitcher Back On The Mound

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Roberto Osuna pitching against the Baltimore Orioles on May 21, 2017. Image: Keith Allison

Roberto Osuna is a professional pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team. But on Friday, June 23, when the Jays needed a pitcher to come in and help them win the game, Osuna didn’t pitch.

Osuna was the logical choice to come into the game; he is known as a “closer,” someone who comes in to pitch near the end of the game, to “save” it. The 22-year-old has “saved” games before–in fact, 18 of them this year.

But he didn’t come in to save Friday’s game and the Jays lost, 5-4 to the Kansas City Royals. At the time, fans didn’t know why he didn’t pitch. Reporters asked the Blue Jays’ manager, John Gibbons, what happened. He told them Osuna said he wasn’t feeling good and “that’s all you need to know,” the Toronto Star reported.

The next day, Roberto Osuna explained what the problem was. He made a statement (Osuna is from Mexico so he spoke in Spanish and a translator translated his words into English). He said that he had felt anxious and “weird” and  “a little bit lost right now.” He said he was fine physically, but he just didn’t feel able to pitch on the Friday.

Everyone feels anxious and even “weird” or “lost” now and then. In Osuna’s case, his anxiety was so bad that day, that it caused him to have to miss a game.

In the past, professional athletes have often been reluctant to talk about mental health problems. Many athletes worry that if they let people know they can’t play because they feel anxious, it might affect their career.

So, by letting everyone know what was wrong with him, Osuna was not only doing something unusual in professional sports, but something very brave. It may also be very helpful to many people who are also suffering from issues like anxiety, but feel they can’t talk about it in public. Hearing a high-profile athlete like Roberto Osuna talk about it, may be inspiring to others.

After hearing about Osuna’s issues and his bravery, many fans expressed their appreciation and support for him.

The following Sunday, Osuna felt well enough to take the mound and pitch again. Not only that, but he struck out three batters in the ninth inning. The Blue Jays beat the Kansas City Royals 8 to 2.

Osuna said he is working with a psychologist (a professional who helps people deal with mental health challenges such as anxiety). He said the psychologist is helping him figure out why he feels anxious and what he can do about it. Osuna said he is “slowly getting better.”

CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS
By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt
The article explains that Roberto Osuna’s statement about his anxiety and mental health challenges is very uncommon in professional sports. It states, “So, by letting everyone know what was wrong with him, Osuna was not only doing something unusual in professional sports, but something very brave.” Why do you think he chose to make this statement? What impact could this have on himself, on other professional athletes, and on people hearing about this story?

Reading Prompt: Extending Understanding
While Osuna is getting professional help from a psychologist, the road to recovery for mental health challenges is often very slow, ongoing and challenging. What could his teammates and fans do to help and support him as he works to manage his anxiety?

Junior
Extend understanding of texts by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Intermediate
Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them (OME, Reading: 1.6).

Language Feature: Homophone
Homophones are two words that sound similar but are spelled differently and have different meanings. For example, a pitcher is the person who throws the ball to the batter in baseball. A picture is a piece of artwork, such as a painting or drawing.

What is a homophone for the following words, and what do each of the words mean?
1. tails
2. kneads
3. weight
4. pear
5. their