Kyle Freeland should be in San Diego today with the rest of the Colorado Rockies, celebrating Opening Day.
Instead, he’s in Scottsdale, Arizona. He’ll likely throw with Jeff Hoffman, maybe get in a lifting session with his personal trainer, take his dogs for a walk and play fetch with them.
“It’s weird that it’s Opening Day and we’re not playing baseball,” the 26-year-old left-hander for the Rockies said Wednesday afternoon during a conference call with reporters. “We’re still here in Arizona waiting for this thing to die out. Definitely I’ll be thinking about baseball. I’ve been thinking about baseball every single day since spring training shut down.”
Since Major League Baseball shut down spring training on March 12, and subsequently Salt River Fields was ordered closed by Maricopa County, the players have been on their own. Some headed to their offseason homes, some went to Denver. Freeland, the Rockies’ 2014 first-round draft pick who started his pro career that summer in Grand Junction, has a home in Scottsdale but is hopeful he’ll soon be packing for Denver.
“Gosh, I hope so,” he said when asked if he believes there will be a 2020 season. “I’m a glass half-full kind of guy. I know as players, we want to play. I’m sure owners, MLB in general and the players association want to play ball. We don’t want the 2020 season to go to waste. From my eyes and how I’m thinking, yeah, we want to play baseball, but this whole thing with the virus comes first and needs to be taken care of and needs to start calming down before we can start putting things in place.”
Because no one knows when, or if, the season will start, the players are doing what they can to stay in shape. Freeland likened it to December or January in the offseason. He’s going to his trainer’s gym to lift, where it’s a strictly one-on-one session, with cleaning products everywhere.
Players stay in touch through group text messages, and they get updates from the front office the same way.
Keeping his body moving is his priority until baseball gets the green light to restart spring training. How long that second spring training will be is being discussed by MLB and the players association.
“There are so many unknowns right now, we don’t know how we should be preparing, how we should be throwing,” he said. “I’m still throwing pretty much every single day, keeping my arm going, keeping my body moving and trying to stay in the best baseball shape I can be.”
That takes up only so many hours of the day, so board games have been pulled out and video games dusted off.
“I turned the Xbox on that I haven’t turned on in about two years,” he said. “I’ve taken my dogs on a lot of walks, spend as much time outside as possible, anything to fill the time that we usually spend at the field doing any sort of baseball operations. I’m trying to keep my head on straight here.”
That includes keeping his confidence level high. Before spring training was shuttered, he was feeling good about his reworked delivery as he bounces back from a forgettable season. He went 3-11 with a 6.73 ERA in 2019, the year after going 17-7 with a 2.85 ERA, when he was a National League Cy Young Award candidate.
“It’s definitely frustrating, but at the same time I need to recognize the position we’re all in and still keep my focus on what I need to do and what I want to accomplish,” he said. “I can’t lose sight of that now because we’re on pause.
”I need to make sure I’m continuing to do my work and my arm stays healthy. I’m doing everything I can so whenever we get that notification of we’re going to start spring training on this date, that my mind and body is ready to jump back into that and when I get back on that bump I’m ready to be right back in that place I was when we did go on pause.”
The lack of information and not knowing when they can return to the field is the most frustrating part of the shutdown.
“No positive news has come out for us to look forward to. It sucks ... there’s no blueprint, no steps we know to take. Everything is done on the fly,” he said. “It sucks not knowing what’s to come or when a certain thing is going to come. It’s literally a day-by-day thing just waiting for information to come out.”
So the day-by-day process continues today. No Opening Day fanfare. No fans. Just more catch, fetch, video games and board games, dreaming about being back on the field.
‘Not having Opening Day,” he said, “all the years I’ve been playing baseball, whether it’s high school, collegiate, minor leagues or big leagues, it’s very strange knowing that we’re not going to be playing baseball on Opening Day.”