On his first day off after 20 consecutive games—and just days after his wife, Soannie, gave birth to their second child—New York Mets' outfielder Andrés "Yungo" Torres spent an evening at NYU Langone Medical Center's Farkas Auditorium on May 31, 2012, for a screening of a film about his life.
"Gigante" tells the story of Torres' efforts to overcome his debilitating ADHD. A remarkably gifted athlete whose hard work and determination took him all the way to the pros, he struggled in the minor leagues for 12 years, playing with 14 different teams, before finally landing in the majors in 2009, at age 32. It was confronting his illness and getting treatment for his ADHD that allowed him to make the hard-won leap after so many years of struggling, Torres says. "Gigante" is about his journey.
Torres greets a fan at the event. Photo by Beatrice De Gea.
In addition to Torres and his wife, filmmaker Chusy Haney-Jardine was at NYU for the event, the first public screening of a rough cut of the movie. An audience of about 200 included kids, Mets and Giants' fans, members of the NYU Langone community, and others. Also in attendance were Dr. Lenard Adler, head of the Adult ADHD program at the NYU Langone Department of Psychiatry and one of the screening's organizers; the CSC's Dr. Xavier Castellanos, who interviewed Torres following the screening; and Ron Blum, baseball writer for the Associated Press, who moderated the event. Dr. Glenn Saxe, CSC Director and Chair, was also in attendance, as was San Francisco Giants' principal partner William Chang, who had the initial idea for the film.
Torres' illness has affected his game in both little, and more significant ways. Former teammate Pablo Sandoval, who was interviewed in the film, remembered Torres heading to the outfield still wearing his batting helmet. Torres' former manager at the San Francisco Giants, Bruce Bochy, recalled Torres paying him $499 after forgetting—for the third time—that he'd been asked not to bunt when he came up to the plate.
Torres' illness was first identified in 2002, but he initially refused further evaluation and treatment. "Why would an athlete like me take pills?" he says in the film. But after all the hours of rigorous training and constant changes to his game failed to get him to the level he knew he was capable of—the Major Leagues—he finally started on medication around 2007.
Torres addresses the audience at the screening. Photo by Beatrice De Gea.
The difference was remarkable. Torres joined the San Francisco Giants in 2009, playing in the majors for the first entire season of his career. He and the Giants went on to win the 2010 World Series. His teammates chose to recognize his achievement that year with the Willie McCovey award for most inspirational player.
In the question and answer session, CSC Director Glenn Saxe noted that it was a coach with one of the many minor league teams Torres played for that effectively diagnosed his ADHD. (The coach was Gene Roof, with the double-A minor league team of the Detroit Tigers.) Roof's son had recently been diagnosed with the disorder, and he recognized the symptoms. "What would have happened if he hadn't noticed?" Dr. Saxe asked. "I don't what would have happened, to be honest with you," Torres replied. Roof had initially come to Torres in 2002, but it wasn't until five years later, when Torres returned to the team, that he was ready to face his illness. Torres told the audience at the screening, "In '07, I went back [to that team], I was struggling so badly. I'm never going to forget, [Roof] came to me and looked in my eyes and said, 'Andres, you have to pay attention, you have a condition, my son has it. You can get medication. You really need this.'"
Earlier Dr. Xavier Castellanos of the NYU Child Study Center had remarked to Torres that even with the right diagnosis, living with and managing ADHD isn't easy. "It's still hard work to figure this out," Dr. Castellanos said. "You work hard, you've always worked hard, and this is hard work, too."
From left, the CSC's Dr. Xavier Castellanos, Torres, and the CSC's Dr. Lenard Adler following the screening. Photo by Beatrice De Gea.
While acknowledging his ongoing struggles with his illness, Torres ended the evening by expressing thanks that he is who he is, ADHD included. It's partly what helped drive him to work so hard physically, running barefoot growing up in Puerto Rico, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. "If I didn't have this, I wouldn't be where I am at today," he told the audience.
Torres spent a long time posing for photos with fans and greeting people who'd come out for the screening, including many children there to see a sports idol. Whether or not these children suffer from ADHD, meeting Torres is something they likely will never forget, a role model who is also, as evidenced by the film, deeply human. As filmmaker Chusy remarked about ADHD, "You can overcome, and conquer it, and be a World-Series winning baseball player."
The film serves as a powerful message that with proper treatment, determination, and the support of people who care, there is no limit to what people with ADHD can achieve. It's important to confront the illness head on and not give up. As Torres put it, "You have to own it before it owns you."
To see more photos from the "Gigante" screening, visit the CSC's Facebook page.