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It all started in the spring of 2007 when brothers Brigham and Todd Shearon watched the Kansas City Royals host the Detroit Tigers on television. The starting pitcher for KC that day was Zach Greinke, whose career was almost cut short because he missed the entire previous season due to social anxiety disorder. Brigham, who suffers from severe social anxiety disorder and rarely goes out, couldn't believe someone with the same disorder could pitch in the big leagues. In an attempt to face his fears, Brigham agrees to embark on a journey with his brother Todd, in an attempt to shed some light on the mental illness and set a Guiness Record by visiting all 30 major league ballparks in 28 days. The trip is chronicled by Todd Shearon in his book : 'Major League Anxiety' (record of a record).
Why did you write the book?
I’ve told so many stories to so many friends and other people I’ve met that I wanted to tell the whole thing all at once. Primarily to continue creating awareness for social anxiety disorders, but so everybody who read it could see what the whole thing was really all about. It wasn’t a pleasure cruise and it was far from a fun trip, it had fun moments, but it was a serious struggle. I want everybody to have their own personal experience with our story and I hope they learn from our journey as well.
When did you first get the idea to write a book?
I had the idea all along. It was just a matter of being lucky enough to complete our trip and have a positive and hopefully inspiring story to tell. The book as it is took a huge turn from its original plan, which was for my brother and I to both separately write our sides of the story. The best way turned out to be writing the book myself and essentially interviewing my brother in order to add his comment throughout the entire thing, still offering the story through both our eyes. I even got our friend Cale Best to write his own chapter regarding his experience and involvement in our trip which helped make us successful. He also wrote the forward.
What is it like seeing someone you love struggle with social anxiety disorder?
Honestly, it’s one of those things where you get used to the scenarios which are specific to the people involved. It’s hard to be sympathetic all the time and easy to just get frustrated instead. But I’m close to my brother and we’ve lived together for years off and on. I think the difference is that we’ve talked extensively about the details of his problem, so if anything I hope to at least have a better understanding and what would help the situation if I was with him when it occurs. It’s a support factor. Part of our awareness is also to encourage people who don’t suffer from anxiety to help someone they care about who does, who won’t get help themselves.
What was it like spending every minute of every day with your brother Brigham and how did it affect your relationship?
It was taxing, on both of us. But it also made us closer in the process. We tend to bicker quite often, but it goes away just as quickly as it might’ve started. We’re brothers and that’s what siblings do. But seriously, we had lots of fun together and learned more about each other in thirty days than we had in the last thirty years. The hardest part for me was trying to convince Brigham I was always in control of the situation, no matter how bad it was. I just didn’t want to break down in front of him. It was really hard on me, and I had lots of help.
There were a few opportunities throughout the journey that you could have packed it in, what kept you going?
I always aspire to finish what I’ve started. This was important to my brother, and it was important to me. I had to see it through whether I wanted to or not.I asked my brother to answer this question as well, his answer is below. Brigham: I knew how bad my anxiety was at its peak moments and I know the things I’ve missed out on in my life and how depressing it is. If it could help anybody else I knew it was bigger than me. So I had to do my best to keep going.
What did you learn about supporting someone with social anxiety disorder?
First and foremost I learned that you can never really know what’s going on inside somebody else’s head. It’s not humanly possible. Nor can you relate unless you’ve had a similar experience. So it’s hard for doctors to help without simply prescribing medication(s). Personal therapy is so hard to be able to attain that it usually never makes it to that point. I also learned it’s a very common thing and can be coped with at different levels.
Vernon Wells gave you a boost at the beginning of your trip, was there another instance along the way where someone or some experience gave you a boost?
Every day there was something or somebody who gave us some kind of boost. No matter how bad a day it was there was always a ray of sunlight. For me personally, it was Sue Mallabon from the Toronto Blue Jays organization. We were introduced by accident. But between her involvement and her personal pep talks with me, she was the boost I needed.
My favourite baseball quote is by Yogi Bera: “Baseball is ninety percent mental, the other half is physical.” ... have you got a favourite baseball quote?
I’d say my favourite quote that I can think of is from Babe Ruth. "I'd play for half my salary if I could hit in this dump (Wrigley Field) all the time." I can’t say I agree with his thoughts on the stadium, but it’s a great quote, that is where he called his shot in the 1932 World Series.
Which park had the best hot dog / bratwurst?
Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium have the best dogs (because they served Nathan’s hot dogs), Tropicana Field’s footlong chilli dog was amazing, Primonti Brothers at PNC Park was a great surprise, Comerica Park wins a prize for their taco salad, Camden Yards has the best pizza (Cale will tell you), anywhere that has garlic fries, and I’m sure Fenway Park has the best New England Clam Chowder (but I didn’t have any)!
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Maintaining composure and trying to enjoy as much of it as I could.
What was your most memorable part of the experience?
The memorable part was being able to experience it with my younger brother.
How do you think your adventure affected Brigham`s outlook?
I know it helped him. He still has panic attacks every day. But I think he better knows his limits now and he tries to enjoy life more often.
This interview was done by Phil, baseball coach, who is originally from Windsor and now resides in London. Phil grew up in the bleachers of Tiger Stadium (Detroit, MI). He draws inspiration from baseball, music and his family.
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