Freeland moved by Special Olympians

November 23rd, 2021

DENVER -- One of Rockies left-hander ’s favorite career experiences was a day spent with Special Olympics participants from Colorado at an event in Seattle in 2018. Up there with that is a local school visit to promote fundraising efforts for Special Olympics after the 2019 season.

Pandemic protocols and normal baseball participation have kept Freeland from being around the event that has captured his heart, but he is working to bring funds to the event, anyhow.

Last week, Freeland raffled off a shadow box of baseballs signed by the 16 Coloradans who played in the Major Leagues in 2021. This week, he will conduct a drawing for the multicolored glove he used during batting practice throughout the ’21 season.

The shadow box and the glove have raised more than $9,000 for Special Olympics Colorado, with days remaining to reach the $10,000 goal. Donations may be made through a link on Freeland’s Twitter (@KFREE_21) and Instagram (@freeballin21) bio pages.

“In 2018, when I was able to hang out with them and watch them do what they love to do, it was very humbling to me to see the absolute joy on their faces to be able to compete with their peers,” Freeland said. “That was the last actual event I was able to go to. I’ve done a couple of smaller things -- visited a school and hung out with some kids.

“COVID has put a hamper on us being able to do more in-person stuff. Hopefully, this coming year with everything trending more positively, we’re able to get some things together and just get out and watch them, hang out with them, see them do what they love.”

Freeland called upon the small community of Coloradans in the Majors to help with the signed baseballs, which are placed in the box with a Colorado state flag in the background.

“It wasn’t that hard,” Freeland said. “John Fuller, who works with me with marketing, was able to track down a couple, then it wasn’t very hard. We have young guys like Tyler Rogers [Giants] and veterans like Mark Melancon [Padres in 2021] when they came to play in Denver. I would ask one of our clubhouse guys to go over and ask for a signed baseball.”

Freeland made a point to thank the players and let them know the purpose.

“Everyone was very receptive,” he said. “They thought it was a great idea.”

During the season, Freeland also raffled off balls signed by eventual National League Most Valuable Player Bryce Harper of the Phillies and pitcher Jacob deGrom of the Mets for the Special Olympics cause. Last month, he reached out to fans of the NL West rival Giants and raffled off balls signed by World Series-winning manager Bruce Bochy and a couple members of those championship teams, Buster Posey and Sergio Romo.

When Freeland, a Denver native, arrived in the Majors in 2017, the Rockies had a group of established Major Leaguers who had robust community and charity programs. Many of them are no longer with the club. But Freeland said those players, especially five-time Rockies Roberto Clemente nominee Ian Desmond, emphasized the importance of giving back.

“’Des’ is the pinnacle of that -- everywhere he played, he set a precedent about how to go about things in the community, and the work he is doing in his hometown of Sarasota is absolutely incredible,” Freeland said. “He pushed guys on the team -- he helped pushed me -- to get more involved, especially with me being from Denver.

“Now, seeing a guy like Ryan McMahon do that ProCamps, which is something I did a couple years ago, is great to see. It’s great to see guys get involved with the Colorado community -- and if not the Colorado community, their hometown community.”