Melisa Reidy-Russell, ex-wife of Addison Russell, says she wanted to wait until after divorce to speak out

CHICAGO -- This time, Melisa Reidy-Russell was ready to talk.

The former wife of Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell, who recently opened up in a blog post about alleged abuse at the hands of her ex-husband, has spoken to league investigators regarding the alleged abuse as Russell awaits his fate on paid administrative leave.

"Last year, when MLB contacted me, I wasn't ready," Reidy-Russell said in an interview with ESPN. "I didn't know what was the right thing to do. I didn't even believe in myself enough to think I should do that [cooperate]. I just left my husband and all this blew up."

Reidy-Russell spoke publicly for the first time since posting her blog, which she said she wrote to help others in similar situations. In a phone interview with ESPN, she repeatedly stated her ambivalence to seeing her ex-husband punished by baseball, but felt talking to investigators was the right thing to do after turning them down twice.

"My lawyers thought I wasn't prepared emotionally," Reidy-Russell said regarding the summer of 2017, when she posted on Instagram alleging infidelity on the part of the Cubs shortstop. A friend commented on the since-deleted post, alleging physical abuse by Russell. Major League Baseball opened an investigation of Russell under its domestic abuse protocol. 

"They told me I didn't have to do it on their timeline," she said. "I told them I wanted to wait until after my divorce."

Even after the divorce, Reidy-Russell remained quiet, as she said her lawyers advised her it wasn't necessarily in her or her child's best financial interests to cooperate.

"[MLB has] been very patient," she said. "I planned to meet with them and then was advised it might not be in my best interests."

But after posting her blog last week, she said she decided to follow her heart and speak out.

"It wasn't sitting right with me," Reidy-Russell said. "I took it upon myself to do what I needed to do regardless what could happen financially. I know that I'm going to be OK. ... I shouldn't have to feel like I can't speak out to help someone else in order to protect someone that hurt me."

Reidy-Russell said once again that she was physically abused by her ex-husband but declined to go into anymore detail.

"If I was wanting to be the one to put that all out there, I would have done it a long time ago," she said. "This is to help others."

Russell has denied the allegations, most recently last week. On Thursday, his paid administrative leave was extended through the end of the regular season. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, a player can be put on paid administrative leave for seven days, which can be extended for up to another week while allegations are investigated.

Reidy-Russell broke down several times in retelling her story. She said it was partly inspired by the #metoo movement. She says she's found herself again, which is part of the message she says she's trying to convey to women who feel overwhelmed in their situations.

"Prioritize yourself," she advised. "You can't think about other people. Take a deep breath and remind yourself, 'You're fine.' I told myself, 'One day at a time, one day at a time.' It's important to remind yourself you are important and how you feel is important."

Reidy-Russell said she has no current interest in talking about the details of her split with Russell.

"I wanted to crawl under a rock," Reidy-Russell said. "I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't know how to process all that was happening.

"I had to take on one thing at a time." 

Reidy-Russell said she expected Russell to deny the abuse allegations.

"Even during our marriage and divorce, he would try to tell me, 'That never happened.' I was like, 'How are you telling me something never happened when it happened?' He was trying to convince me that I was crazy.

"I almost started to believe him. People are good at manipulating others. And when you've been manipulated for so long, you start to believe the lies. You have to tell yourself you know what is right and what is wrong."

She never reported the alleged abuse to police.

"That wasn't an option at that time," she said. "I loved my husband a lot. I even made excuses for him. And there's such an embarrassment."

Reidy-Russell began documenting her experiences last June 10. She said she wrote and rewrote her blog post from last week several times and can't pinpoint exactly why she went public with it when she did.

"I didn't really have a date where I was thinking, 'I'm going to write this blog and post it on this day,'" Reidy-Russell said. "But if felt good for me to write it down.

"The night I posted that, it was not planned. It was pretty late. Lying in bed one night, it just popped in my head, so I grabbed my phone and prayed.

"I wanted to help someone else. I knew my words could benefit someone out there. I was able to overcome this at my age. I thought so many women could be impacted by it. God gave me the courage to do it. I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, so I posted it. My boyfriend was, like, holding my hand. I was like, 'I'm doing this, I can't believe I am.' I never felt like such a weight lifted off my shoulders."

Reidy-Russell places no blame on the Cubs but wishes she had somewhere to turn as professional sports -- especially baseball -- can be uniquely difficult on relationships, especially youthful ones.

"I hope that organizations that are family-oriented will do better in having some kind of system to help victims of domestic abuse, help them transition from what they are going through. Baseball is very, very stressful. It takes a toll on a relationship. Not everyone knows how to work through things. That could be huge."