Minor leaguer who survived suicide attempt takes new role with Giants
SACRAMENTO — Every so often, Drew Robinson will reach for the bullet that tore through his skull some 15 months ago.
He will run his fingers across the mangled piece of lead and wonder about what he did, how he survived it and his new life calling: to help others. He knows that now. It’s not to be a Major League Baseball player. Those are dashed dreams that he can now cope with.
Robinson retired as a baseball player Tuesday night as an outfielder for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. He said the rigors of baseball and the abject fear of failure in a sport where failure is part of the game is too much to bear. Robinson can admit now that there is no shame in such confessions. Baseball used to bring him joy but then it started to torture him, so much so that Robinson attempted suicide. Robinson said a return to baseball this season after nearly dying “saved me” and retiring from the sport “really saved me.”
Robinson’s journey now is a new beginning. The 29-year-old on Thursday starts his new role as an advocate for mental health with the San Francisco Giants, the parent club of the River Cats. He never expected his call-up to the Giants would be in this role, but he’s delighted. Robinson is consumed with good thoughts where there used to be so many dark ones.
For Giants players and coaches, Robinson will provide an ear that he never thought anyone had for him, or that he didn’t want to burden with his worries. He will hide nothing from here on out, not his emotions, not his missing right eye that was shattered by that bullet. Not the scars on his head or scars on his soul.
“I have a new beginning,” Robinson said. “Life is good. There is livability. Life is special.”
Robinson can see life — and that bullet — with a limited vantage point but with a renewed sense of the big picture. He thought for months about placing a pistol to his right temple, which he did on April 16, 2020, in his Las Vegas home. He was alone and consumed by thoughts of not being good enough, of wondering if he had what it takes to return to the Major League Baseball stage. Robinson had a taste of the big leagues and craved a return. He logged 100 games in 2017 and 2018 with the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals and showed remarkable versatility, but he was miserable through a lot of it as he was demoted to Triple-A, then called back up, then sent back down.
Robinson played 28 big league games in center field, 24 in left, 23 at third base, 15 at second, seven at shortstop and two in right field. But the powerful 6-foot-1, 205-pound Robinson struggled to hit big league pitching, batting .202 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs.
After his suicide attempt and recovery that was superbly chronicled by ESPN, Robinson vowed to play again. He signed with the Giants and spoke openly with management about his mental concerns, that he struggled with confidence in a profession that requires it.
With the River Cats, Robinson batted .124. He struck out three times Sunday in a 14-0 loss to Round Rock, the feeder program for the Rangers. That sort of outing would have overwhelmed Robinson before. It no longer does. It’s part of baseball. Even the best swing and miss. Robinson understands this. He’s now available to listen and share with others who may struggle internally.
“I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing in baseball that I often didn’t do the right thing,” Robinson said. “When I wasn’t trying to fail, that’s when things happened naturally. I tried to do everything on my own and not ask for help. That created a very lonely feeling. I didn’t reach out to my support system, my family and friends.”
Robinson thought he had a handle on his emotions this season. Sometimes he did. Too often, he did not.
“I felt it this season,” he said of feelings of despair. “I started to fall back into a lot of similar habits and fell into some dark places and thought patterns again. I had to step away and retire to save myself.”
Robinson added, “I shared with the Giants this season that I was going through a bad time again, and they were empathetic and caring, and I realized that it’s not the right thing to be back in baseball as a player, though it was special to be back. Unfortunately, I was not as equipped to handle the baseball lifestyle as I thought I had, and that’s something I realized before the incident.”
‘It’s a miracle I survived’
The incident is the suicide attempt.
Robinson said he did not have the strength to live in April 2020. The bullet crashed through his right temple and destroyed his right eye. It nearly shattered the other eye before exiting near his left cheek. Where there was once shame in even looking in the mirror, Robinson now beams at another chance. He found a measure of self-worth in returning to playing action and feels an obligation to help others as an advocate of mental health.