Why Mental Health Transparency From Colorado Rockies’ Daniel Bard Is So Important


Carly Philpott

Colorado Rockies pitcher Daniel Bard stands alone on the mound during the ninth inning in a Sept. 10, 2022, Colorado Rockies game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had a 0.00 ERA in the game and got the save. Bard has publicly struggled with gametime anxiety, or the yips, since 2012. Despite returning to the majors in 2020 and improving his statistics to a career high in 2022, Bard began the 2023 season on the Injured List for “anxiety.”

Carly Philpott, Editor-in-Chief

In my final seasons of soccer and softball, the hardest part of the game was simply staying on the field. Standing as goalie, with most of the action on the opposite side of the field, or behind second base as the pitch crossed the plate, I could barely visualize my next move past the anxiety that clouded my senses. I was never the strongest athlete, but panicking rendered me useless.

There were many reasons I eventually quit soccer and softball. By that point in my life, my journalism commitments were rising and school responsibilities were intensifying. But in the end, it was anxiety, not a lack of love for the game, that took me out of sports.

This year, Colorado Rockies closing pitcher Daniel Bard struggled through a very public anxiety episode during the World Baseball Classic on March 18. While pitching for the U.S. team, Bard’s erratic throwing ended in two walks, a wild pitch, and a broken hand on Houston Astros star Jose Altuve. When the regular season began and Bard was placed on the 15-day Injured List (IL), he was very candid about the reason: “anxiety.”

This is not the first time Bard has experienced anxiety on the field. Though he debuted as an ace with the Boston Red Sox in 2009, an “unhittable” pitcher according to many, anxiety began to disable him in 2012. By the end of the 2013 season, he was unable to play – walking most batters, hitting players left and right, and most importantly, lacking the passion he’d once had.

Bard missed seven straight seasons. During this time, according to one Sports Illustrated article, he was so disillusioned that he didn’t even want to play catch with his sons. He was terrified to approach baseball again, sure that anxiety would resurface. But in 2020, the Rockies took a chance on him. That season, he ended with a .667 win percentage and an ERA of 3.65 – the same ERA as his stellar debut season in 2009. He struggled more the following season, but returned to grace with a 1.79 ERA in 2022. It seemed that Daniel Bard was the ultimate success story for overcoming gametime anxiety – known in baseball as “the yips.”

The yips are frequently seen but rarely overcome in baseball. Many pitchers, catchers, and other players contract this sudden inability to throw the ball accurately and never make it back to the big leagues. The idea that the yips come from anxiety has long been skirted around. But Bard made it back, and he’s not denying what it all means.

When the Rockies announced that Bard would be placed on the IL, he was adamant about naming the reason very clearly as anxiety. “From my experience, knowing myself, I think just taking a step back, taking time to work through things, get it right, is the best approach,” Bard told reporters, according to ESPN. “It’s a hard thing to admit. But I’ve been through this before.”

With so many players suffering from mental health issues that could forever damage their ability to play, it’s so vital that players be candid about how they’re feeling and how it’s okay to deal with these issues. From the standpoint of someone who handled anxiety on the field and off of it, it’s unspeakably validating to see such a big star discuss mental health while also making it clear that it doesn’t have to end careers.

In a follow-up Instagram story a few days after the IL announcement, Bard said, “This isn’t about running from stress or challenges. Embracing and doing hard things is a huge part of who I am. This is a case where I know my mind and body aren’t handling the challenges the way they’re supposed to, so I’m taking the time and doing the work to get that part right.”

Bard also thanked fans and teammates for the outpouring of support, and finished with this: “I’ll be back.”

I have no doubt that, just like he did before, Bard will be back. And when he is, baseball fans in Colorado and across the country will be proud and ecstatic to welcome him back: for his gameplay, of course, and for his upstanding honesty.

This story was awarded First Place Sports Commentary from CSPA.