New Film Tells Story of Torres’s Struggles With A.D.H.D.
By ANDREW KEH
Discerning a fastball from a changeup is difficult enough; imagine doing it with untethered focus, attention meandering.
Andres Torres, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, spent three years in San Francisco before being traded to the Mets.
“Gigante” is a documentary about Torres and how he has dealt with A.D.H.D. The movie’s makers plan to release it next year.
This was precisely the obstacle impeding Andres Torres, who stumbled for a decade through baseball’s minor leagues, working for a break, always falling short.
Only when Torres accepted the extent to which he was debilitated by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, finally embracing the medication and therapy prescribed five years earlier, did he begin to blossom as a ballplayer.
Now the circuitous path of Torres’s career — which reached a pinnacle in 2010, when he helped the San Francisco Giants win the World Series — will take him next season to Queens, where he will play center field and bat leadoff for the Mets.
And when he reports to spring training in February, a camera crew will follow, putting the finishing touches on a documentary about his life, “Gigante,” which he and the filmmakers hope will increase awareness about the disorder he continues to overcome.
“A lot of people who have this condition, they don’t want to talk about it, and that’s fine, and I respect that,” said Torres, who hopes his candor about A.D.H.D. will help remove its stigma. “But I am who I am, and I don’t feel bad about it. That’s why I’m doing this.”
(With Torres’s trade away from the Giants, however, the filmmakers said they were “reviewing” the idea of changing the movie’s name.)
The film was conceived by William Chang, a part owner of the Giants. He first spoke to Torres while eating breakfast in the team hotel the day the Giants went on to capture the 2010 championship. Torres, Chang said, was looking for help finding lightweight cleats from Japan, where Chang was born and raised.
“I’ve been around pro sports,” said Chang, who also owns D.C. United of Major League Soccer. “And there are lots of wonderful people, and there are a number of people who aren’t that wonderful. But Andres was one of the most charismatic and caring individuals I’d come across.”
Chang’s initial fondness for Torres grew when he read of his struggle with A.D.H.D. Chang, 55, long suspected that he, too, had the disorder because he was continually in trouble at school and with his parents.
“It struck a chord with me,” Chang said of Torres’s life story. “He struggled and struggled and struggled and finally found success.”
For years, though, success seemed beyond Torres’s grasp.
Born in Paterson, N.J., and raised in Aguada, P.R., Torres signed with the Detroit Tigers in 1998 as a 20-year-old full of promise. But promise took him nowhere.
In 2007, after nine middling seasons with four teams, Torres, just shy of 30, found himself back in the Tigers organization, still toiling in Class AA.
He began that year hitless in his first 30 at-bats and accepted that something would have to change. At the urging of Gene Roof, a minor league coordinator, Torres agreed to confront the diagnosis he had tried to ignore. Torres learned he had A.D.H.D. in 2002, but he used his prescribed medication for just a few days.
When Torres acquiesced to Roof’s advice, the difference in his play was stark. He finished the 2007 season with a .292 average. The next year, he batted .306 for the Chicago Cubs’ Class AAA team. And the year after that, when he signed with the Giants, he finally became, at 31, a regular in the major leagues.
Over three seasons with the Giants, he batted .252 with a .332 on-base percentage.
“With the medication, everything started clicking,” said Torres, who was traded to the Mets this month. “From then on, it changed.”
The narrative of the late bloomer is one Anthony Haney-Jardine, the director of the film, is eager to tell.
Haney-Jardine, who is known as Chusy, was recruited for the project in the winter of 2010 and approached Torres, as he does any other subject, with a measure of skepticism. He did not know much about Torres or the disorder. At the same time, he said, he was aware that certain medications were used recreationally and had read of athletes’ use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Baseball bans medications that treat A.D.H.D., like Adderall and Ritalin, but it grants therapeutic-use exemptions for players with specific problems. During the 2011 season, 111 exemptions were granted to major leaguers, 105 of which were for attention deficit disorder.
After viewing Torres’s struggles up close, Haney-Jardine was quickly convinced of his authenticity. He came to view Torres as a friend and was sure he had found a compelling subject.
“He’s not constructing an artifice,” Haney-Jardine said. “He’s terribly flawed, and the movie will show that. But he is trying to do good.”
A small film crew followed Torres for a year, compiling hundreds of hours of video. Haney-Jardine also used actors to recreate moments from Torres’s childhood, plucking everyday people from Torres’s old neighborhood to play key roles.
Having the disorder, Torres said, “is like being in your own world.” Haney-Jardine aimed to capture that.
Chang and Haney-Jardine each said he was struck by how often people came up to Torres to thank him for inspiring them. Such interactions often reduced Torres to tears.
Their hope is that the movie, which they plan to release sometime next year, will embolden even more people with the disorder, while educating a wider audience.
“It’s a story of a human being who happens to be a baseball player, who happens to have won a World Series ring, who happens to have A.D.H.D.,” Haney-Jardine said. “I don’t know how else to say this, but he is beautiful to watch.”