The player behind the game: How Travis Snider shifted his mindset and became a voice for mental health

Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays
Detroit Tigers v Toronto Blue Jays / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages

From 2006 to 2012 Travis Snider was a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, and during that time "Lunchbox" went from top prospect to starting outfielder, to the minor leagues, and back up again. Now, Snider has a new mission, with the end goal of removing the stigma of mental health within the sport of baseball.

But before we get to the serious matter at hand, for some of you reading this, the last time you saw Travis Snider was during the Level Of Excellence ceremony for José Bautista last month. For Snider, it was an honor to be back, and a memory he'll cherish.

"Seeing everybody and just reconnecting... A guy like Bautista who we came on to the team together in 2008, and even though we were battling for at bats, José and I developed a strong bond as we both evolved in our careers," he told Jays Journal in a phone interview. "Going back there what was really special was then being able to hang out with some of the guys from the playoff teams. Hearing the stories about the city and the way things were, it was something I always dreamed of as a Blue Jay."

As for the ceremony itself, Snider commended the organization for just how great of a job it did celebrating a player with such importance to the team.

"I don't think they could've done a better job, I was tearing up through that process, just how proud I was to be a part of that," he said. "It's fun to go back as a former player and just celebrate the special career that José had. He's a tremendous human being and ballplayer and I think the Blue Jays just knocked it out of the park."

Unfortunately for Snider, his tenure with the Blue Jays ended in rocky circumstances. Snider was optioned multiple times, and just when he thought he had secured a starting spot, he was dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates. While many people look at moves like this strictly as ways to improve the team, they rarely take into effect the pressure this puts on athletes. When expectations aren't met, and you get demoted to the minors or shifted to another organization it can feel like a slap in the face. Most athletes grow up the best in whatever sport they play, and once the realization creeps in that you're not as successful as you once were it can take a lot out of you. For Snider, the tumultuous beginning was the beginning of a powerful stressor that followed him his entire career.

"It triggered a lot of things I didn't even know I was carrying with me," he said while reminiscing. "I was riding pretty high, and I say this knowing that a lot of people have the same experience going down there to Triple-A, and they don't make it back. Going down there [to Triple-A] for me was really tough, especially the first time, and I never really recovered confidence-wise. Every time after that got a little bit easier, but deep down it got a whole lot harder."

The process of being sent down multiple times can leave a player looking for explanations. Whatever changes they might make (regardless of how significant) take a lot of mental and physical strength to address, and if results aren't happening they might continue searching until it's too late. For Snider, he believes that might've been his downfall.

"I think the third or fourth time, I had dealt with injuries, I'm changing my swing for the third or fourth time, and I'm trying to please everybody else instead of pleasing myself. I felt like I lost control over my process, I lost control over my conviction, and the things that had helped made me a first-round pick and accelerated me through the whole minor league experience became difficult for me to comprehend as a 22/23/24-year-old."

Sadly for Snider, his baseball career ended in 2020, but since then his goal has been sharing his story as a way of bringing awareness of mental health to the forefront. On August 22nd, he revealed his diagnosis of CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to the world via social media.

While more and more athletes are trying to remove the stigma around topics like these, it still remains a touchy subject for most. With his playing career behind him Snider realized he had to shift focus, and creating awareness would be perfect.

"There are a lot of people out there who are going through worse experiences than I have, and different experiences than I have." He continued, "for me being able to communicate those things in a public space, number one, it might help encourage people that might be struggling, and number two, it might help motivate them to get the help they've been avoiding."

While Snider's experiences as a Major Leaguer vary significantly from the average person, there are lessons that he learned that can be applied to anybody who is struggling, and that's what he's been trying to emphasize.

"I'm somebody who as I have evolved in my life, with my personality and what I've been diagnosed with, there's triggers," he said. "Starting to learn and understand what those triggers are leads to some of the best advice I got which was 'if your heart rate is starting to increase that's good because you're alive'."

You can follow Travis on Twitter/X @Lunchboxhero45 to hear firsthand how he dealt with significant struggles throughout his career, along with other fun tidbits from his years in the major and minor leagues. He is an excellent follow who has a seemingly endless amount of stories to share from his professional career. Thank you to Travis for taking the time to speak with us for this interview.