Rockies reliever Daniel Bard found himself at Chase Field.
The former player mentor in the D-backs’ mental skills department earned saves against the club he used to work for Monday and Tuesday, but his salvation has been months, and arguably years, in the making. Bard's evolution as a man, and a pitcher, continues, and he’s now emerging as a ninth-inning option for Colorado.
Before this season, Bard had not thrown a pitch in the big leagues since 2013. He was plagued with severe control problems, bouts of anxiety and fear of failure in recent years. He has used strategies to help him succeed, and he’s been open about his path, because he understands his story can help others.
“I think I just realized a lot about who I was, and I had an opportunity in this journey of playing again to not just do it for myself and a ‘cool story,’” Bard said. “I know from the job I was doing with the Diamondbacks that there's tons more people dealing with not just on-field or baseball anxiety-type issues, but off-field stuff.
“It can come out in a variety of different ways, but I think it's all part of the human experience in feeling those things, and they're not something to be embarrassed about. I was embarrassed about it for a long time, because I wanted to put on this front that I'm a big league baseball player and I don't have any problems and everything's always great. I get paid a lot of money to play a game, but it's like, ‘No, these are actual real feelings that people have.'”
Bard has struck out 17 and has not allowed a run in seven of his 14 outings as he builds a case for the National League Comeback Player of the Year Award. “Bardo,” as he was known in Arizona, worked with the D-backs the previous two seasons and visited the big league team at least once a month in 2019. He informed Arizona of his desire to pitch again before Spring Training.
The Rockies, who have had an up-and-down season, could use Bard’s consistency in the bullpen.
“I told him, ‘I don't know where you were at a few years back, but holy cow, man, this is awesome,’” Rockies bullpen coach Darryl Scott said. “To see where he’s at and what he's doing and the confidence level that he's throwing at and the ease, it’s relaxed.”
Make no mistake, Bard's former Arizona colleagues are rooting for him -- just not when he’s on the mound pitching against the D-backs. They continue to support his efforts and appreciate his success.
There’s nothing bittersweet about Bard pitching against the team that once employed him. It’s all sweet.
“The weirdest thing is how fast it’s happened,” Bard said. “I was probably here for six series last year and was in that dugout and on the field for BP and shagging with those guys and in the clubhouse. It feels like it’s been a blink of an eye and I’m over here in a different uniform playing against them. I think it’s fun and ironic how it worked out. I didn’t seek out the Rockies. They found me, and it’s just the way it worked out.”