CC Sabathia had had enough — enough of the nightclub brawls, enough of the overdrinking, enough of hurting his family. So while much of the baseball world questioned his decision to check into rehab for alcohol addiction right before the Yankees headed into their wildcard playoff game, he and his family realized that rehab was the best place he could be.
Months later, happy and healthy, Sabathia is better. His family is better. And the Yankees might be better for it.
“I think everybody else was trying to figure out the timing, but I wasn’t interested in that,” said Sabathia before watching his kids take the runway as part of New York Fashion Week’s Kids Rock! Fashion show, the proceeds of which will go to his PitCCh In charitable foundation. “I just wanted to get some help and do what was right for my family.”
Sabathia, who usually throws year-round, took a month off for rehab — throwing a football instead of a baseball — but has been getting into baseball shape since November. His health, physical and otherwise, is allowing him to better train his surgically repaired knee and strengthen his upper body, he said.
And for those worried about the 35-year-old’s performance this year, he threw his first bullpen three weeks ago, he’ll throw another Friday and then again next week, when pitchers and catchers report to spring training. “I feel great and I’ve been working hard for the last three months and I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m excited. . . . This is the best I’ve felt in three years.”
Above all, he’s more focused, his wife, Amber, said. He’s happier, too.
“You know what? I don’t know how difficult it was for him” to go to rehab, Amber said. “He knew he wanted to be a better man. . . . He knew he needed to get help and so all I could do was really support him.”
CC, though, admits it could be difficult at times. He was apart from his family and though he visited with them throughout his stay, at the end, “it was great to get back and be part of the family.”
He was relaxed Thursday night, and forthcoming about the struggles he faced. Most of all, he seemed proud of his children, who were walking in the fashion show.
In many ways, it was a stark contrast to the Sabathia of recent years — frustrated by injuries and struggling to hold onto past successes. He was 6-10 last year, with a 4.73 ERA, and benefited greatly in the latter half of the season from a knee brace that both stabilized the joint and made him feel more secure when throwing. The year before that, the one-time Cy Young award-winner was 3-4, pitching in only eight games in an injury-shortened season, to the tune of a 5.28 ERA, the worst of his career.
But Sabathia these days doesn’t shy away from past demons, whether on the field or in a bottle.
“I have good people around me,” he said. “I can understand that if I have those urges, I can beat them even before they come. I’ve learned a lot of tools.”
Whatever he does on the mound this season, that sentiment is enough to make those close to him rejoice. “Day to day, he’s just in a better mood,” Amber said. “He’s more dedicated to baseball and more zoned in to get the season started. . . . I’m very excited for this year to come so he can prove to everyone that he’s healthy.”
Added CC: “I’m excited. I’m ready to get down there. . . . I’m over the winter.”
For the Sabathias, that hard-fought spring can’t come soon enough.