Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

With anxiety under control, Aubrey Huff focuses on World Series

DETROIT — The glint is back in Aubrey Huff's eyes. The smile — and, more important, the smirk — on his face. The smart aleck and sarcasm in his words.

"Maybe," he said, "all the stress of the six years of losing in Tampa finally caught up to me."

He laughed as he said that, which is a good sign, too.

That's because a few months ago, there was no joking for the former Ray.

An overwhelming panic attack hit him early one April morning in a New York hotel room, an experience that would disrupt his season with the Giants and change his life.

If it first didn't end it.

"I thought I was dying," he said. "I really did."

Huff overcame the shortness of breath, the racing heart and mind, and abruptly left the team, flying home to Tampa under the guise of a family emergency. After another episode the next day, he eventually made his way back, launching a monthslong odyssey of therapy and treatment that he said now has him feeling under control again.

"The days are getting shorter and shorter where I'm freaking out," Huff said. "I'm just worried about living day by day, and being positive, and having as much fun as you can. You're not guaranteed another day in this life, so just enjoy it. I started thinking about how much God's blessed my career and my family."

That's quite a different soundtrack for Huff, 35, who was usually known for a belligerent attitude, a steady stream of put-downs and a large frat boy personality, highlighted by his starring role in the Giants' 2010 championship run modeling a red rally thong.

He's still not sure exactly what happened that April morning, just that it was a confluence of issues: problems in his marriage to Baubi (who had filed for divorce in January), poor play that endangered his role on the team, an embarrassing misplay when forced to play second base for the first time that cost the Giants a game on national TV, and his usual uneasiness about being in New York.

"Everything was happening so fast," Huff said. "There was a lot of stuff that kind of just hit me at once. You get to the point where your mind can only take so much, and you just kind of lose it a little bit."

He returned to San Francisco a week later and started seeing a therapist, who identified his core issue as "future-tripping" — that Huff was thinking too much about too many things that might happen.

For the first month they talked almost every day, then a couple of times a week, then once, and now Huff said he has gone a month without. He also started taking antianxiety medication but quit after a few weeks because he didn't like the zombie- like feeling it gave him.

So he decided instead to focus on positive thinking. "It's been good," Huff said.

Though Giants officials and teammates weren't privy to all the details, they said they were glad Huff sought treatment and persevered.

"I know this has been a difficult year for him," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I think he's in a better place than he was."

"I think some guys now are finally saying, 'You know what, I'm not going to sit there and tough-guy it all the time and say I'm too good for that.' Instead they say, 'I've got to get some help,' " reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. "I feel like he's doing a lot better now. … He got some help he needed rather than going the other way, not saying anything and getting into a situation you don't want to be in in your mind."

The anxiety issues weren't Huff's only problem, as he completes a two-year, $22 million contract. He ended up being sidelined for close to three months with a freak injury: spraining his right knee jumping over the dugout railing to celebrate Matt Cain's perfect game in June.

By the time Huff was fully healthy in September, he had lost his part-time duty at first base and in leftfield. He was reduced to pinch-hitting and just thankful even to be on the playoffs and World Series roster. His season stats: .192 with one homer and seven RBIs in 52 games (15 starts).

Which leads to his next dilemma. He seems to have the anxiety under control, and his marriage was reconstructed, with Baubi and their two boys a big part of his recovery. But he doesn't want his career, which started with the Rays in 2000, to end like this.

"This year would be a tough year to go out on personally," he said. "I'm in the World Series, and it's great to be here, but I feel like I'd like to go out on a little higher note."

He will be a free agent when the Giants decline his $10 million option, and though he first said it would have to be the "right situation" — competitive team, comfortable city — he admits he badly wants one more chance.

"I definitely do want to play. I'm sure something will be out there," he said. "Maybe I could sign a one-year deal and pinch-hit and play a little first base for the Rays next year. You can throw that out there if you want."

Now that sounds like the old Huff.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

World Series

Giants 2, Tigers 0

Game 1: Giants 8, Tigers 3

Game 2: Giants 2, Tigers 0

Tonight: at Detroit, 8:07

Sunday: at Detroit, 8:15

Monday: at Detroit, 8:07 *

Wednesday: at San Francisco, 8:07 *

Thursday: at San Francisco, 8:07 *

TV: Ch. 13 * if necessary

Comments
Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

Rays are suddenly swinging hot bats, but will it last?

ST. PETERSBURG — Good pitching and hitting go hand in glove, but the Rays did not look like a team that could swing the bats very well until this completed homestand.In their series sweep over the Twins, Tampa Bay scored 8, 10 and 8 runs. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rick Stroudís takeaways from Rays-Twins

Rick Stroudís takeaways from Rays-Twins

–Yonny Chirinos may be the Rays fourth starter, but it seems to be in name only. He was lifted after pitching 4 2/3 innings against the Twin on Sunday, the shortest start of his career and his second-shortest appearance.  "Going into the g...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Raysí Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

Raysí Carlos Gomez hits two-run walkoff homer to beat Twins for series sweep

ST. PETERSBURG — With every swing, there is a chance Carlos Gomez is going to do something extraordinary with the baseball bat.He may swing so violently that he spins himself into the ground as if he were an oil drill. Or, you could see him sna...
Updated: 11 hours ago
For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

For starters: Rays vs. Twins, going for the first series sweep of the season, 1:10 p.m.

Rays pitcher Yonny Chirinos is no longer just part of a bullpen day, he's the No. 4 starter and who goes to the mound at 1:10 p.m. against Phil Hughes to try to help Tampa Bay attempt to complete a three-game sweep of the Twins.Catcher Wilson Ramos g...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Rays thoughts are with ex-teammate Danny Farquhar

Members of the Rays organization sent their thoughts and prayers to former teammate Danny Farquhar, who was hospitalized Saturday night in Chicago in stable but critical condition after suffering a brain hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm.Farqu...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Rays on Sunday: 1:10 vs. Twins

Sunday vs. Twins1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 760-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $20-$300; available at Tropicana Field box office, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of game.Promotion: Mascot socks for kids 14 a...
Published: 04/22/18
Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

Rays Journal: Team effort pays off in 10-1 win over Twins

ST. PETERSBURG – Let's be clear here, the Rays still have a long way to go, and a lot of ground to make up.But seeing them play like they did Saturday in beating the Twins 10-1, putting on a solid all-around show in cobbling their first three-g...
Published: 04/21/18
Updated: 04/22/18
Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

Marc Topkinís takeaways from Raysí 10-1 Saturday win over Twins

* Is it time to take the leap and believe this is the real Blake Snell? He talked a good game this spring and pitched well in his debut, but that rough second outing raised old doubts. But a good outing in Chicago and two dominant ones on the homesta...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

Rays Tales: How low can this team go compared to those Devil Rays days?

When the Rays, in the opening weekend of their 20th anniversary celebration season, brought back and honored the inaugural 1998 Devil Rays squad, it got us thinking unexpected thoughts, such as which was a better team:The first one, or the current on...
Published: 04/21/18
Rays will go forth with four starters

Rays will go forth with four starters

ST. PETERSBURG — Three weeks was enough for the Rays to officially ditch their three-man rotation plan.Starting Sunday, they will go forth with Yonny Chirinos as their fourth starter.Which is a five-star idea.The flaws in the three-man plan ...
Published: 04/21/18