Shortstop Andrelton Simmons said depression and thoughts of suicide led to his decision to opt out during the last week of the Los Angeles Angels' 2020 regular season, telling the Orange County Register that "the idea of finishing the season in a bubble was too much for me to handle."
Simmons, who recently finalized a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, chose to share his story in writing, through a series of Twitter direct messages, instead of verbally because "it is still difficult to articulate certain things or be open."
The Angels announced on Sept. 22 that Simmons had opted out of the final five games of the regular season. No additional information was provided, though Simmons said in a statement that he felt it was "the best decision for me and for my family." At the time, the Angels remained mathematically in the race for the second wild card and second place in the American League West. Although their chances of reaching the postseason were slim, league rules required that potential playoff teams begin quarantining that week in preparation for upcoming playoff games.
"It was tough for me mentally to where the thought of suicide crossed my mind," Simmons told the Register. "It was something I vowed a long time ago I would never consider again. I was fortunate to talk to a therapist, which helped me let go of those thoughts. At the end when a lot of people were still going through what most would think of as tough times, the idea of finishing the season in a bubble was too much for me to handle."
Simmons played in just 30 games during the abbreviated regular season, also missing time due to an ankle he injured for a third straight summer. He told the Register it was difficult to focus on baseball when so many people were struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"First time was driving through Oakland and seeing some of the shops and restaurants trying to stay open with all the homeless people camping outside," he said. "That's when it really hit me."
Simmons began communicating with a therapist, but his hesitations about entering a playoff bubble persisted.
"I was really saddened by how much I was hearing about the death toll and seeing how smaller businesses were going out of business, and I was a little depressed at how the effects of all the new rules and fears were gonna affect people's livelihoods and how disconnected people were becoming," he said.
Simmons told the Register he wasn't forthcoming about his reasons for opting out at the time "because I don't like the idea of having to explain every detail of my life" and "was afraid of people judging and people twisting my story." But he said he changed his mind when he realized that being open about his situation could help others who are struggling.
Information from ESPN's Alden Gonzalez was used in this report.