Verlander, the star pitcher of the Houston Astros, opened up to Bleacher Report about his relationship with Upton, and how she helped to guide him through his public and private struggles as an athlete.
“She was instrumental in me not… like, jumping off a bridge,” Verlander, 35, said of Upton. “I was depressed and kind of just upset at the world and trying to hide my own s–––.”
In 2014, two years after Upton and Verlander began dating, Verlander was experiencing a major slump due to a shoulder injury which seemed to put career was in jeopardy. As a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, Verlander was booed by fans, and commenters on social media tried to blame Verlander’s relationship with Upton for his decline on the mound, Bleacher Report notes.
When a coach pulled him from the first inning of a game that August and asked him to get an MRI, Verlander thought “the end” of his career had come, and he wept as he walked back to the clubhouse.
“I don’t like to talk to people about being hurt,” Verlander said. “As athletes, you’re not supposed to… But [Upton] was someone I could talk to. I mean, basically a therapist. Somebody I could trust with… worries about my career. Worries about, Can I make it? Worries about what I’m going through to get back.”
Through this difficult time, Upton, 26, remained Verlander’s rock. She understood better than most people what came with being at the center of the public eye and the target of critics.
“She obviously had dealt with more than me in her life,” said Verlander. “I mean, being a woman? Being in that industry? Being that famous? That was a level I hadn’t dealt with.”
With Upton’s help, Verlander entered physical rehab and learned to adjust his playing style for his aging body.
“It was so emotional,” Upton told Bleacher Report. “He was in so much pain, and he was just trying to find the best path back.”
Verlander returned to form in a few seasons time, and when he was eventually traded from the Tigers to the Astros during the 2017 season, he was instrumental in leading the team to their first MLB championship just months later.
“Who knows, if I’m even here if it wasn’t for her?” Verlander told the publication.
After defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7 of the World Series in November, Verlander flew with Upton to Italy, where they married in a lavish ceremony.
“Married life’s been great. I married my best friend, and we do everything we can to spend as much time together as possible,” Verlander told PEOPLE in March. “Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. It’s been a lovely first year of marriage.”