Freeland shares keys to life during season delay

March 26th, 2020

DENVER -- Rockies lefty pitcher spent Wednesday, which was supposed to be the eve of the 2020 season, throwing. But with the season on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, Freeland’s throwing amounted to playing fetch with Benny -- his massive and quite good-natured German Shepherd.

In Denver, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (where Freeland is) and in San Diego, where the Rockies were to have met the Padres, Thursday’s weather will be on the high end of the magnificent scale. Forecasts across baseball cities reveal just one bad weather spot -- cold, rainy Chicago.

Nonetheless, baseball draws big crowds, and those are a no-no as the world contends with a deadly virus.

“Even out here in Arizona, you know during Spring Training, the weather's beautiful right now, starting to heat up out here,” Freeland said while multitasking -- playing with Benny, and talking to Denver media on a conference call. “You really don't think that bad things are happening when you have beautiful weather. So yeah, that kind of thing usually doesn't go hand-in-hand.”

There’s no way of knowing when the season will begin, which means no way of knowing how to prepare beyond the plan that players will get some form of Spring Training before a schedule begins.

Freeland’s strong work during the abbreviated Spring Training put him in position to rebound from a rough 2019. Staying fresh during a time of closed facilities (the Spring Training center shared by the Rox and D-backs is closed) and social distancing can be boiled down to three keys:

1. Friends, at a distance
Freeland and right-hander Jeff Hoffman, who have clicked throughout their Rockies careers, get together for throwing most every day. And not to worry, the distances they need to throw keep them apart enough. Catcher Tony Wolters lives in Scottsdale, should they find the need, and a place, to ramp it up.

“Drew Butera [another Rockies catcher] went back to Florida,” Freeland said. “I'm pretty sure Tony's still out here. So, we'll begin with him here in the next few days to kind of set some things up if we want to throw some light sides just so we can feel like what it's like to continue to throw off a slope. It's mostly finding a place to do it.”

2. Stay in shape while supporting local business
“I actually have a trainer out here who runs a private gym, and he's been allowing me to come in and get my lifts in,” Freeland said. “That was nice of him to open up the gym to me. And I know he's a small business owner, so it's also kind of nice to help him out as well just because he's in a tough time right now as well.”

3. Connect
This is as much non-baseball as baseball. How does Freeland stay connected?

The phone is his friend.

“We get information from [Rockies senior director of Major League operations Paul] Egins, and anything from the front office,” he said. “And we have our players’ group message where we talk to one another, we check in on one another.

“Probably every day there are a couple texts shot out, checking in on guys, how people are doing, if anybody needs anything and discussing anything that’s going on in the baseball world right now.”

Fans are his friends, as well.

Freeland, his girlfriend, Ashley Chrisman, plus Benny and Kona, a golden retriever, are popular on Instagram and Twitter. Freeland (and Benny) thanked those keeping society running on one recent post. He said he gets and gives on social media.

“Any way that we can reach out to the fans and give them some content of what we’re doing in our lives while we're in this holding pattern, to maybe brighten their day, give them something to talk about,” said Freeland, adding that out of boredom he has been playing games on an Xbox he hasn’t used in two years. “Not just myself or the Rockies, [but] guys on teams who are active on social media have been able to reach out to their fan base, and baseball in general.”