DENVER -- The beauty of baseball remains the absence of a clock. Until the final out is recorded, the game ambles forward.
It was, for the better part of a century, the National Pastime. It was, literally and figuratively, how we passed the time. But when sports went dark seven weeks ago because of the coronavirus, everything stopped in a way never imagined. For the first time since 1883, there were no pro sports played in April.
Kyle Freeland understands the halt, recognizes safety is paramount. This interruption, however, came at a tough time. No Rockies player was more eager for the season than Freeland. After spiraling from fourth place in the Cy Young voting in 2018 to a Triple-A demotion last season, Freeland was prepared to rebound like Dennis Rodman.
"I was definitely ready. This break isn't something obviously anyone wanted. Myself, I was ready to go," Freeland told Denver7. "We were two weeks away from breaking camp. I was feeling confident in myself, in my pitches, and how I was doing. Then everything was put on hold. I have to find a way to keep that mentality of knowing where I was when we stopped and continuing to feel that so I can crank it back up to that again.”
Freeland’s optimism sprouts from altered mechanics – he ditched the flamingo leg pause in his delivery – and a clear mind. After players scattered when spring training was suspended, Freeland hunkered down at his home in Arizona. Creating structure has been critical. Freeland throws light bullpen sessions off a mound at Jeff Hoffman’s house, and works out four days a week.
The pitching staff continues to stay connected through technology.
“We have a group chat where guys will check in, give info out if they have it. Also pitching-wise, the starters, we do a Zoom class every Friday with (pitching coach) Steve Foster,” Freeland said “It’s a good way for us to stay in contact, talk baseball and talk pitching.”
Freeland, who turns 27 on May 14, believes it would take roughly a month to prepare to throw 90 pitches in a game. When will that be? Uncertainty defines the situation.
There is a growing belief there be baseball this summer, possibly resuming around July 1. What that looks like remains a work in progress – the latest proposal involves three 10-team divisions aligned by geography – and on pause until the country slowly reopens.
“I can't wait to play. I am going to be overjoyed when we get the word we are playing on this date. Of course, that comes with a side of caution where we have to be smart with what we are doing and touching (in practice and games),” Freeland said “We aren't next to each other a whole lot. But as pitchers we are licking our fingers. Last year nobody was thinking about this virus at all. So we have to be cautious.”
Staying ready has not been issue, but it remains jarring. Freeland’s mind and body continue to tell him he should be at a ballpark preparing for a start.
“It is just weird, still,” Freeland said.
Freeland has found ways to create levity through golf trick shots. Freeland can navigate a course – but his house? He has the red solo cup hole-in-ones on video to prove it.
“I love watching trick shot videos on Instagram and Twitter. They look funny. As a kid I did them a little bit. One day I decided to set up a red solo cup in different areas,” said Freeland. “And I started it. I just propped up the (phone) camera where you can see the ball go in.”
Those laughs provide a temporary diversion to a goal that he has been stalking since last October: His rebound on the mound mirroring that of his team.
“I am very excited for us. Things are going to be much different,” Freeland said. “We are looking to bounce back in a positive way. I will be ready.”