Dream come true

Rockies' Freeland happy to be drafted by hometown team

Kyle Freeland grew up rooting for the Colorado Rockies and now begins his pro baseball career with the Grand Junction Rockies in hopes of one day pitching in Coors Field. Freeland, the Rockies’ first-round draft pick, reported to the GJ Rockies on Thursday.

Kyle Freeland, the Rockies’ first-round draft pick fron Evansville University, reported to the Grand Junction Rockies on Thursday. The left-hander is the third straight first-round draft pick to start his pro career at Suplizio Field, after David Dahl in 2012 and Jon Gray in 2013.

It’s funny what can change after a four-hour drive.

For Colorado Rockies 2014 first-round draft pick Kyle Freeland, the shift from southeastern Denver to arriving at the Grand Junction Rockies’ clubhouse Thursday was felt almost immediately.

“Bit of a culture change, being around all the Latin guys and things, but it’s really cool,” Freeland said. “Especially being drafted by the Rockies and being able to stay in the state and having my parents being able to come down (to Grand Junction). But I came in, checked out the facility, got my locker, got my gear and rolled right into practice.

“Stretched and everything, got to know everyone, got some throwing programs and got the ball rolling.”

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound left-hander practiced in a limited capacity Thursday, and he was more focused on meeting other players and coaches. Freeland, who signed a contract with a $2.3 million signing bonus earlier this week, said it was a dream come true to be taken by the Rockies.

“Being taken by a hometown team doesn’t happen too often,” Freeland said. “And me leaving Colorado after high school and going to Indiana for three years and then coming back and being drafted by the Rockies is a really cool feeling, and I’m glad they got me.”

After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, Freeland played three years at the University of Evansville (Indiana), capping his career with a stellar junior season in which he struck out 128 batters and walked 13. Those numbers earned him the Missouri Valley Conference pitcher of the year award.

But it was an all-star-caliber performance in the Cape Cod League the summer before his junior year that sent him shooting up draft boards.

Freeland led the league with 48 strikeouts, and he posted a 2.25 ERA against some of the top players in the nation.

Major League Baseball scouts swarmed to see Freeland’s starts during his junior year, and the scouts pegged Freeland as a top-10 pick. Predraft rumors had Freeland going as high as No. 3 to the Chicago White Sox, but it was ultimately the Rockies who decided to draft him No. 8.

“It was a roller coaster of emotion,” Freeland said. “I mean, on the film, I fell right into my dad’s arms. It was just the best feeling in the world.”

It was ultimately a bet that paid off. After Freeland’s senior year at Thomas Jefferson, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted him in the 35th round and offered him a $250,000 signing bonus.

But Freeland decided Evansville was the right path for him, and that allowed him the opportunity to develop into one of the Rockies’ top prospects.

“It was pretty stressful for about a month there,” Freeland said. “The Phillies were throwing all this money at me when I’m 18 years old. It’s a lot. But the offer from Evansville was great, and I ended up going there for three years and loving every single year, every single minute.”

Now, Freeland is expected to be a key piece of the Grand Junction Rockies’ starting rotation. Freeland has a “plus” slider with solid movement and a fastball that can reach 95 mph. Add to his repertoire a change-up and curveball, and Freeland could play a major role in setting down batters at Suplizio Field.

“I met all the coaches, my pitching coach (Ryan Kibler), and all the guys I’ll be working with and hopefully learning from,” Freeland said. “I’m just excited to get going.”


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