Kiszla: With no baseball on opening day, Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland feels pain of “nothing to look forward to”


Rockies pitcher Kyle Freeland is Colorado strong. But in the age of coronavirus, he compulsively grabs a bottle of hand sanitizer before leaving the house. Freeland loves baseball. But instead of taking the mound for Colorado, he is stuck in the backyard, playing fetch with Benny, his German shepherd.

“It’s very strange knowing we’re not going to play baseball on opening day,” Freeland said Wednesday.

There will be no baseball today. No turnstiles clicking or crowd buzzing. No happy crunch of peanut shells underfoot in the bleachers. No fifth-grade class singing the national anthem delightfully off-key before the home plate umpire leads our chorus: “Play ball!”

From Fenway Park to Wrigley Field to Chavez Ravine, major-league ballparks sit empty. Opening day has been put on hold, while we obsessively wash our hands and hoard toilet paper, hoping that’s enough to beat a pandemic.

No baseball also means the redemption of Freeland has been delayed.

“It’s frustrating,” said Freeland, giving voice to the stay-at-home anxiety the rest of us also wrestle. “It really seems like no positive news has come out. … Nothing to look forward to.”

Nobody wants to get back to Coors Field with more urgency than Freeland. He was a 17-game winner and Colorado’s favorite son in 2018, when the Rockies has visions of World Series glory. Then all the good vibes were flushed straight down a rabbit hole for both Freeland and his teammates, who lost 91 games last year.

“I’d be lying to say that my mind never went there, where you say: ‘This (stinks) in general. And I (stink).’ It’s hard not to go there, because you’re struggling, you’re not seeing any kind of success,” said Freeland, whose earned run average ballooned to 6.73 in 2019.

As a much-anticipated playoff race went off the rails for the Rockies, the 26-year-old graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School was shipped to the minor leagues in search of his mojo and fastball command.

On the first weekend in June, Freeland was broken and emotionally battered as he took a seat in the office of Albuquerque Isotopes manager Glenallen Hill.

Hill, who spent 13 big-league seasons as an outfielder bouncing among seven teams, looked the reeling pitcher in the eye and offered words that began Freeland’s recovery.

“Look, you’re in a tough spot right now,” said Hill, telling the hard truth. “But in this organization, you’re one of the guys looked up to.”

It was a small display of unwavering faith that allowed Freeland to realize he wasn’t alone in a struggle with a game that dares to mess with a player’s head. Hill, who had experienced horrendous slumps as hitter, could relate to “what I was feeling. That sense of loss. That sense you’re not good enough to play this game anymore,” Freeland said.

So we cheer for a comeback to his dominating form, because Freeland is one of us. He’s as genuinely Colorado as the sport utility vehicle he proudly drives with dog hair from his golden retriever and German shepherd on the seats.

Freeland ditched skis for a …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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