Speaking with Bleacher Report’s Brandon Sneed, Houston Astros ace Justin Verlander opened up on his relationship with his wife, swimsuit model Kate Upton, and how she helped him through depression and self-harming thoughts as he dealt with injuries a few years ago.
How Kate Upton Saved Justin Verlander’s Career https://t.co/oaknDQA3jH
— brandonsneed (@brandonsneed) August 9, 2018
Upton was by Verlander’s side after 2014 surgery
Verlander and Upton met on the set of a 2012 commercial for the video game “MLB 2K12.” They went on dates and kept their relationship “just friendly” for the next year or so, Verlander says.
Verlander’s body started betraying him in 2013 — he struggled with arm pain — even though he was named an All Star once again and tied for the league lead with 34 starts. But in the offseason, Verlander suffered a groin injury while squatting. He had separated the tendon from the bone and also had an injury in his abdominal muscle that had gone undiagnosed. He required bilateral sports hernia surgery, and Upton was his first visitor following the procedure. Upton remained by Verlander’s side, along with Verlander’s parents, and helped care for him.
“His parents say that was the moment they knew they loved me,” Upton said.
Verlander thought his career was over in 2014
Verlander’s arm continued to nag him in 2014, and his performance fell off a cliff. His ERA skyrocketed to 4.54, the highest it had been since 2008. After giving up five runs in the first inning against the Pirates on Aug. 11, Verlander was removed from the game and told to get an MRI. He sobbed on his way to the clubhouse. He knew he needed surgery.
“I really thought it was the end,” he told Sneed. He was 31. As Verlander struggled mentally, Upton was there for him.
“She was instrumental in me not … like, jumping off a bridge. I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own s***.
“F***, man,” he says, voice shaky. “She was what I needed.”
“I don’t like to talk to people about being hurt,” Verlander continued. “As athletes, you’re not supposed to. It’s an excuse. … But she was someone I could talk to. I mean, basically a therapist.”
Upton was uniquely suited to help Verlander. As a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, she had faced criticism for her appearance on several occasions, and she became a source of comfort for Verlander as outside criticism toward both grew louder and louder.
Verlander returned to full strength by late 2015
Verlander made progress and got his velocity back but couldn’t stay completely healthy throughout the early parts of 2015. In August and September combined, though, he posted a 2.48 ERA and had a complete-game one-hitter against the Angels on Aug. 26. That late-season run proved to be legitimate: He finished second in AL Cy Young voting the following season.
When Verlander was traded to Houston near the trading deadline last year, Upton’s excitement is what caused Verlander to waive his no-trade clause. “If she had been anything less than enthusiastic,” Verlander says, “I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
Of course, Verlander has been terrific in Houston. He went 4-1 in six postseason starts in 2017 as the Astros won the World Series and is pitching to the tune of a career-best 2.19 ERA at the age of 35 this year. That success is, in large part, thanks to Upton.
“Who know if I’m even here if it wasn’t for her?”
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