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Mets Player Promotes ADHD Awareness at NYU Medical Center

By Mary Johnson | June 1, 2012 11:34am

KIPS BAY — When Mets center fielder Andrés Torres was in college, he would push his mattress straight up against his bedroom wall and hit baseballs against it over and over again late into the night.

The ritual stemmed partly from a drive to succeed on the baseball field, but was mostly caused by a restless mind. Torres suffered from an acute case of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which he wouldn’t be diagnosed with until years later, he explained.

Now, the ballplayer's battle with adult ADHD has become the subject of a forthcoming documentary, “Gigante.”

A rough cut of the film premiered Thursday night at NYU Langone Medical Center as part of Torres’ efforts to raise awareness of the disorder. He will also join NYU Medical Center and Bellevue Hospital at two events to be held later this summer to help draw attention to the disorder and promote treatment.

“I’m the way I am and I feel proud,” Torres said before the screening on Thursday. “If I can share my story, I can help others.”

Torres, who played with the San Francisco Giants when the team won the World Series in 2010, was traded to the Mets this past December. But he has been struggling with ADHD since long before his move to New York.

Torres, 34, said he has had trouble focusing throughout his career, which included seven years in the minor leagues.

He said he has repeatedly changed his hitting style, never being satisfied with his batting performance. He has lost focus while at bat, forgotten things and felt his mind racing constantly, unable to slow down, he explained.

“I was like a roller coaster. I couldn’t focus. My head was going everywhere,” said Torres, who became so choked up talking about his past that at times he could not speak.

“There were times when I thought, you know, that’s it,” he said of the multiple moments when he considered giving up. “[But] I have to take care of my family… I cannot let them down.”

Torres said he was diagnosed with ADHD in 2002 but didn’t begin a consistent treatment regimen until 2009, when he noticed a dramatic difference.

“It helped me concentrate better,” he said. “I saw a big change in my career and my life.”

“[But] I still have struggles,” he added. “Even with the medication, it’s still hard.”

And Torres is not alone in his bout with adult ADHD, said Dr. Lenard Adler, a psychiatry professor at NYU Langone Medical Center.

ADHD affects about 4.4 percent of adults in the U.S., he noted.

“There’s a lot of individuals out there who are not being treated,” Adler said. “Andres coming forward and talking about this is really critical.”

The documentary that has followed Torres for the past several years is not yet complete, but Chusy Haney-Jardine, from the production company Plan A Films, said his team is hoping for wide distribution for “Gigante” and entry into festivals to spread the word about adult ADHD.

“It’s a very honest portrayal,” he said. “This is who he is. This is how he struggles.”

Men in the Hispanic community can be hesitant to seek help, added Haney-Jardine, himself a Latino. That makes Torres a particularly strong role model.

“You can’t get more man than this,” Haney-Jardine said, gesturing toward Torres.

“This guy has an acute case of ADHD, and I find it terribly inspiring,” he added. “In overcoming his struggles, he became a giant figure.”