Houston Astros pitching ace Justin Verlander has shared the story of how his wife, model and actress Kate Upton, brought him back from the brink.
Verlander, 35, has been phenomenal for the Houston Astros over the past couple of seasons - winning a World Series title with the team in 2017.
However in 2014, at the age of 31, he thought his career was done.
In an extensive interview with Bleacher Report, Verlander detailed how ongoing shoulder issues had saw his production drop and when he had been pulled for a match in the first inning, he wasn't sure he'd find his way back.
"I really thought it was the end," he said.
At that point, he and Upton, 26, had been together for two years. Over that time, Verlander had regressed from a league MVP to one of the most expensive pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. Fans had blamed his regression on his relationship with Upton, but as Verlander says, Upton was the reason he got back on track.
"She was instrumental in me not…like, jumping off a bridge," he said. "I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own s***.
"I don't like to talk to people about being hurt. As athletes, you're not supposed to. It's an excuse … But she was someone I could talk to. I mean, basically a therapist.
"Somebody I could trust with … worries about my career. Worries about, 'can I make it?' Worries about what I'm going through to get back. And just the overall s****iness of it all."
Upton stressed the importance of knowing one's body, and Verlander sought the advice of a physical therapist who found Verlander's shoulder injury was a result of his lack of flexibility.
Working up to six hours a week for the next three months, they focused on improving Verlander's soft tissue and joint mobilisation, and in 2015 he was beginning to look like his old self again on the bump.
After a strong end to the 2015 season with the Detroit Tigers, Verlander announced his return with a dynamic 2016 campaign in which he was arguably the most dominant pitcher in the league. It wasn't just his career that was blossoming again, as he and Upton got engaged later that year.
Back at his best, Verlander was traded to Houston in August 2017 and hasn't taken a backwards step.
Since joining the Houston franchise, Verlander has a 16-6 record and was an integral part of their 2017 World Series campaign.
Verlander and Upton were married the day after Game 7 of the World Series last year. The pitcher told Bleacher Report things might have been a lot different without her in his life.
"Who knows if I'm even here if it wasn't for her?"
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