MLB Pitcher Danny Duffy’s Silent War Against Anxiety, Depression, and Panic Disorder

Kansas City Royals’ pitcher Danny Duffy has been fighting a silent battle against anxiety, depression, and panic disorder for much of his life, as detailed in a story published by The Kansas City Star.

The following is based on their article.

It all started as an adolescent – a young, and smitten Danny Duffy was laying on the floor of a bowling alley, short of breath and crying his eyes out – his crush had just rejected him (The Kansas City Star). Duffy had dedicated a song to the girl over the loudspeaker, but his puppy love went unrequited, and it triggered his first panic attack – he was 13-years-old (The Kansas City Star). It was the first of many panic attacks the eventual Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher would endure (The Kansas City Star).

Duffy’s anxiety coupled with his shy nature made him avoid most social gatherings – which in turn made him a prime target for high school bullies, who went from verbally mocking Duffy, to physically abusing him (The Kansas City Star). As he recalls in the article, “I got the shit kicked out of me in high school” (The Kansas City Star).

Fast-forward to senior year, a then 17-year-old Duffy was on the mound throwing fastballs that routinely topped 90 mph – and MLB took notice (The Kansas City Star). In 2007, he was drafted by the Kansas City Royals, who used their third-round draft pick to select Duffy in baseball’s amateur draft (The Kansas City Star). After spending a few years in the minor leagues, where Duffy said he was “kind of a loner”, he approached his first spring training in early 2010 with all the excitement and exuberance of a young man happy to have the opportunity to play the game he loves at the highest level (The Kansas City Star).

The excitement would be short-lived (The Kansas City Star).

“This ain’t for me.”

The Royals’ veteran pitchers picked up where the high school bullies left off – regularly using Duffy’s locker as a garbage can, wrapping food in aluminum foil and stuffing it into his bag (The Kansas City Star). Threatened by the possibility of the fast-rising pitching prospect taking their jobs, Duffy was told to shut up when he spoke (The Kansas City Star). They also labeled him as stuck-up and gave him the cold shoulder. “I went in with the mindset that I was going to make some new friends,” Duffy said in the article. “And I left with the mindset that I didn’t have any” (The Kansas City Star).

The harassment from teammates – who needled his every move – only intensified (The Kansas City Star). After one game, Duffy would return to the locker-room only to his find his clothes drenched in ketchup – he was fed up (The Kansas City Star). “I’m out, bro,” he told the Royals’ General Manager Dayton Moore, as told in the article. “This ain’t for me.”

After a meeting with the Royals’ front office, Duffy’s bags were packed and he decided he was done with baseball, despite the pleas of several of his favorite teammates who begged him to stay (The Kansas City Star). Duffy walked away from the game he loved and returned to his hometown of Lompoc, CA to live with his parents (The Kansas City Star). However, he knew that he had a problem, and sought help for it – he began attending therapy (The Kansas City Star).

The therapist provided a relieved Duffy with a diagnosis – he had anxiety, depression, and panic disorder (The Kansas City Star). “The biggest thing I’ve learned in therapy, and it sounds cliché, is you can’t go wrong by being yourself,” Duffy said in the article. “It’s a deeper statement than it sounds. You never ever fail yourself if you act as who you are. We were made this way for a reason. It takes a certain level of confidence to do that. I didn’t have that confidence.” (The Kansas City Star)

Duffy Finally Comfortable in his Own Skin

Duffy returned to the Royals in 2011 – with a healthier culture in place where his teammates and coaching staff were more empathetic of his condition (The Kansas City Star). Duffy would go on to be part of the Royals’ 2015 World Series Championship.

He realizes that anxiety will always be part of his life, but he currently maintains more control over the condition than in years past (The Kansas City Star).

“I finally feel comfortable in my own skin,” he said in the article. “Thank God, dude.”

Duffy offered an encouraging message for anyone suffering in silence with anxiety, depression, and panic disorder (The Kansas City Star).

Duffy also said in the article that: “I want people to know that I was lost, too. I want them to know that there’s a healthy way out. Sometimes you just gotta search hard enough and grind through it.”