DENVER -- On May 29, 2012, Daniel Bard won a game for the Boston Red Sox. It did not warrant a headline or lead the scroll on our television that serves as a our sports conscious. It was just a single day in a long season, nothing memorable.
Flash forward to Saturday.
Bard took the mound at Globe Life Field for the Rockies. The black electrical tape number from a recent scrimmage was replaced with a stitched No. 52 on his gray jersey. Bard entered the game in the fifth inning protecting a lead. After all the failure, the side sessions, the hypnosis, the work as a mental skills coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bard was back.
"It's the stuff you only see in the movies," Rockies starter Jon Gray said.
And the performance was pure Disney. Bard squelched a rally in the fifth then, with two runners aboard in the sixth, induced a fly ball by Willie Calhoun to extinguish the threat. It proved a defining sequence in the Rockies' first victory of the season, a 3-2 triumph over the Rangers.
However, this game will forever be remembered because of Bard. He posted a victory. The last time he did that Gray attended junior college in Oklahoma, Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" bumped on the radio and "The Dark Knight Rises" topped the box office. Consider it the latest mile marker in what is quickly becoming baseball's most remarkable story.
A year ago, Bard could not play catch with his kids because of the yips. Saturday, he was a huge reason why the Rockies are not reaching for the panic button in this truncated 60-game season.
"It’s the same physical thing that went on when I pitched before. The heart rate is up. The adrenaline is pumping. That perspective makes it really positive where it helps you or it crushes you. (Coping and relaxing) is not something that I learned overnight," the 35-year-old said Saturday. "Hopefully this proves to anybody out there that it can be done."
Bard's lack of command forced him out of the game. He lost his way in Boston as a starter, then bounced around the minors with multiple teams. The Rockies received a call in the spring that he would stage a bullpen session for scouts. Most had little to do, so why not? Twenty-five teams showed up. The Rockies liked what they saw, and signed Bard. He pitched well in March, improved during the quarantine in South Carolina and landed a roster spot last week.
Saturday afternoon, his phone was a testament to his accomplishment.
"Funny thing is that I came into the clubhouse after the sixth inning and I grabbed my phone. I had 60 text messages. Major League Baseball is pretty strict about phone use during a game, and there was a guy (he thought was MLB security) in the locker room looking at me. I felt like a second-grader and sat back in my seat," Bard said, cracking a smile. "So, I went back to my dugout and soaked it all in."
That Bard made personal history deserves attention. How he did it was even more impressive. He blended a 98-mph fastball with an 88-mph slider, leaving manager Bud Black to admit, "The stuff is there." The right-hander threw 20 strikes in 25 pitches. He did not look like a man making a comeback. He looked like a veteran making a statement.
"It was freaking awesome," Gray said. "It was so great to see."
Bard had a lead to protect because of Gray's solid work -- one run over 4 2/3 on 79 pitches -- and better situational at-bats. In Friday's opener, the Rockies fanned 14 times and were shut out in the first game for only the third time in franchise history. David Dahl had three hits, and the rest of the team went 0-for-25 with 13 Ks. Saturday, Matt Kemp delivered an RBI bloop single and Ryan McMahon made contact with a comebacker on a two-strike pitch from Mike Minor to plate a run. Garrett Hampson also stole a run, by robbing a home run in left field.
Carlos Estevez, Jairo Diaz and Wade Davis, all of whom might not be available Sunday because of their workload, navigated trouble over the final three innings before Davis punched out Rougned Odor on a 92-mph fastball.
It sealed a win -- and rolled the credits on Bard's unforgettable performance.
"It is," Black said, "a great story."