Contributed by Adam Baum, Cincinnati Enquirer
"I think there's a strength in revealing your weakness."
Chase Murray did not know what was wrong.
He did not know why he was feeling the way he felt, why the thoughts racing through his head seemed endless.
The medical definition of anxiety is an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physical signs and by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it.
Murray has anxiety.
"I believe mine stems from wanting to do so much with each day and feeling like you're running out of time," said Murray, who graduated from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in 2016, played college baseball at Georgia Tech, and was drafted in the 13th round of the 2019 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"I didn't even know anxiety was a thing."
The first time he experienced it was at Georgia Tech.
"We're in the middle of a season and I'm doing good and everything from the outside looking in was great and I remember I went through a little breakup and at the time, I was leading the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) in hitting, but when I'm not at the ball field, I'm in my room spinning circles in my head with this feeling ... this worry, this constant racing in my head."
At the time, he didn't know how to handle it and it didn't take long before it flared up again on him.
The year he was drafted, Murray got injured two weeks into the college season.
"I have that same (worried) feeling," he said. "What’s going on? I wish this would just go away because I know I'm fine and things are going to work out because God always has a plan, but I need to get this feeling away."
He spoke to his girlfriend about it. She said he might have anxiety and encouraged him to speak to his dad.
"So, I called my dad and I go, 'Dad, I think I got anxiety,'" said Murray. "And he's like, 'What are you worried about?'
And God bless him, he was just as clueless to the whole thing as I was."
Last offseason, Murray decided to learn more about his anxiety and when the coronavirus pandemic hit, Murray noticed more and more athletes discussing mental health. He saw Kevin Love, of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott open up about their own struggles.
Seeing high-profile athletes dealing with the same issues he was dealing with was a reminder that he's not alone.
"Once I figured out what was going on in my own head, I tried to share it with people right away," said Murray. "I get it. I understand. I always talk about it because I think there's a strength in revealing your weakness and I think you become stronger as a human being when you talk about it."
Murray takes medication to help manage his anxiety. He has also found it helpful to talk to people he trusts.
"Just talking and breathing was huge for me," said Murray. "Since I'm a religious guy, in 2019 – my draft year when I was hurt – I had a lot of extra time so when I would have extra time, I would pray and write down devotionals. Not journaling, but I was trying to manifest what I wanted to feel that day and writing things down and clearing it out of your mind actually works."
He wanted to speak publicly about his anxiety because he said there is still a stigma around mental health. Murray wanted to remind people that it is real and it doesn't discriminate.
"From the outside looking in, I've got a great life going on," said Murray. "But that doesn't mean there's not days where I have some anxiety that cripples you to the couch and you're just sitting there thinking about what's wrong.
"I want to be a sense of comfort and understanding. I want people to know they are not alone.
"Again, when I say this, I realize I am so not on the same level as a Dak Prescott or Kevin Love. I'm a minor league baseball player. There's a huge difference, but if there's some kid or adult that hears this from a professional baseball player, then God bless them if I can make them feel a little more comfortable."
Murray was at spring training in Bradenton, Florida, when the pandemic shut everything down. When the Pirates decided to send everyone home, Murray declined air travel and opted to drive the 10 hours home with teammate Matt Gorski, who is from Indiana.
Murray spent the next few months with his parents in Cincinnati, training at CHCA to stay in shape, and working odd jobs here and there to help supplement his income with his stipend from the Pirates. His agent helped him get affiliated with Twitch, a live online streaming service, and he racked up more than 50 subscribers that watched him play Call of Duty: Warzone during the pandemic.
"I'm so blessed to have a great family and it was almost like they were having fun having me home," Murray said. "My dad would be amped to go hit and he was almost like a secondary form of motivation to get up and do all the training because he loved it, and I could say the same for my brother who's still playing (baseball)."
As the pandemic continued deeper into summer and crept closer to fall, Murray, who was two semesters away from graduation at Georgia Tech when he signed with the Pirates, decided to return to school to finish his degree in Business Administration with the Pirates paying his way.
"I'm getting to do something I've never done before ... be a regular student with no athletic requirements," said Murray.
Murray's back down in Atlanta. That is where his girlfriend is and he enjoys attending classes in person at Georgia Tech, although it's a hybrid learning model at the moment. He is still training, back with Georgia Tech strength coach Steve Tamborra, so he's ready when baseball starts back up.
Murray will not call this a wasted season because he didn't waste it. He reconnected and spent time with his family, went back to school, learned about himself, and maybe most importantly, he opened up about something most people avoid talking about.
He is looking forward to spring, a season that just so happens to bring baseball with it every year when it arrives.
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