Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 5/3/12
Jeff Reardon is doing well these days. But to know what that means for Reardon means first knowing what the former Minnesota Twins closer went through during the darkest years of his life. After his 16-year major league career was over, Reardon settled down in retirement with his family, including his three children. He and his wife, Phebe, lived in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., just a few streets away from the late Gary Carter, a former Expos teammate of Reardon's. Jeff and Phebe have lived on the same street for three decades. It's where the Reardons' three children grew up. It's also where Jeff Reardon lost his son, Shane. At just 20 years old, Shane Reardon died of a drug overdose in February 2004. Shane was the middle child, between older brother Jay and younger sister Kristi. But he battled drug problems for years. In the end, Shane Reardon lost that battle. And Jeff Reardon lost a child. "Nobody really knows what it's like when you lose a kid unless they've lost a kid," Reardon said. "Everyone loses a loved one. It's a fact of life. A father, a mother. But there's nothing like losing your own kid. That's just too hard to take." Reardon didn't know how to handle the loss. He spun into a deep depression for years. He wouldn't leave the house. Here was a man who won a World Series with the Twins in 1987 -- and recorded the save in Game 7 against the Cardinals, which he says was the highlight of his career. Several years later, he became Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader, passing Rollie Fingers during the 1992 season with Boston. Reardon retired in 1994 with the Yankees, his seventh team in 16 years. Suddenly, though, everything he achieved on the baseball field didn't seem to matter. Reardon would have traded it all to have his son back. "Everything I had possibly dreamed of, getting to the big leagues first, of course winning the World Series with the Twins and having three healthy kids, it was like I was on top of the mountain," said Reardon, now 56. "And then this happened, and it's like everything came crumbling down and I went to the bottom of the mountain. "I'm about halfway up now, trying to get back up there." Hitting rock bottom The depression was bad, but it got worse for Reardon before it eventually improved. He was on suicide watch, was in and out of hospitals and underwent multiple treatments for his severe depression. Then, on a December day in 2005, Reardon -- on a mixture of medications for depression and a heart condition -- went to a local jewelry store in Palm Beach Gardens, the same store at which he had previously bought jewelry for Phebe. Reardon handed the clerk a note that said he had a gun and instructed the clerk to put money in a bag. As it turned out, Reardon didn't have a gun. He also didn't have any idea what was going on, he admits years later. "Because I was taking these heavy psychotic drugs when this heart thing happened, I guess the mixture of it ... kind of sent me nuts," Reardon said. "I don't remember one minute of that day. All I remember is the cops pointing the guns at me. That's all I remember." There was no financial incentive for him to rob a jewelry store. According to Baseball-reference.com, Reardon made more than 14 million during his 16-year career. Reardon was eventually found not guilty by reason of insanity as a result of the medications he was taking at the time of the incident. "They proved that I was insane at the time. I did get off of it, which I think I deserved to get off of. I had no idea what the hell I was doing," Reardon said. "Fifty dollars they gave me in a little bag. ... Thank God I got off because you never know. I didn't have a gun or anything. "That was weird." Climbing back up the mountain Today, Reardon says he's doing "much better," although it took a while to get to this point. Part of turning the corner was simply understanding what he went through after his son's death. "I never even believed in depression before this happened. It definitely happened to me," Reardon said. "Then they got the right mix of medications. It's still hard because you never forget. Every day, you wish he was still here." Losing one son has perhaps brought Reardon closer to his two other children. Jay, now 31, recently got married and Kristi, 25, remains in the area. "It's been kind of a struggle for the last eight years, but we're surviving our best," Reardon said. "I like to spend as much time with them as I can. When you lose a kid, it's pretty tough." While the memory of his son is still strong, so too, is Reardon's recollection of winning the World Series with Minnesota in 1987. He pitched in four games in that series, and earned the save in the Twins '4-2 win in Game 7. When Willie McGee grounded out off Reardon for the final out, Reardon and the Twins were world champions. Though he played only three of his 16 seasons in Minnesota, Reardon still has a place in his heart for the Twins. He made it back to Target Field when the ballpark first opened in 2010, and he's hoping he'll be back again for a possible 25-year reunion with his 1987 Twins teammates. "They're No. 1 in my heart because of not only winning the World Series. I thought the fans were the nicest fans of any of the seven teams I played for," Reardon said of the Twins. "Even though I grew up in Massachusetts and always wanted to be a Red Sock -- which I was -- I still say Minnesota was my favorite place to play." More than 20 years later, Reardon still raves about then-manager Tom Kelly, who guided the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991. Despite a slow start for Reardon at the beginning of the 1987 season -- including a 7.33 ERA and numerous blown saves in the first two months of the season -- Kelly stuck with his closer. "He very easily could have went to somebody else like (Juan) Berenguer, but Tom Kelly knew I was a veteran and just struggling and he stuck with me," Reardon said. "That's one reason I wanted to stay in Minnesota." Reardon admits it's been tough to watch from afar as the Twins have gotten off to a slow start this season. He knows baseball is a marathon, however, and is rooting for his old team to bounce back. And if anybody knows what it takes to bounce back, it's Jeff Reardon. Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
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