When the Rockies play their opening game of the year in Miami on Thursday, Denver native Kyle Freeland will take the mound.
Freeland is coming off a breakout season last year, one where he broke the Rockies all-time record for lowest earned-run average for a pitcher. The 25-year-old Thomas Jefferson High School grad also won the first playoff game of his young career in an epic, extra-innings classic against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
The Rockies season ended in disappointment after being swept by the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, it was a incredible year for Freeland, who has become a local celebrity after leading the team he grew up rooting for into the postseason. He even shot the ceremonial opening free throw at the Nuggets home opener in October 2018.
CPR reporter Vic Vela caught up with Freeland during at Rockies Spring Training in Scottsdale, Ariz.
What's harder: pitching for a big game or doing a free throw at the Pepsi Center?
"Hitting one free throw for sure. I mean whenever as athletes we step outside of our comfort zone into a different sport, and I have to do that in front of a crowd, It's kind of nerve-racking. I've never been so nervous in my life having to do that and I was just so thankful that it went in."
How do you manage to stay grounded with all the attention you’ve been getting?
"You just gotta remember where you came from, remember why you play this game, everything like that. I know this day and age things can become a whirlwind. Things can get crazy very fast. But remembering who you are, what you stand for, and just making sure that no matter what happens, good or bad, that you're playing this game for the right reasons."
How hard was it having your season end with getting swept in the playoffs?
"I mean, you always want to be the last team standing. And whenever you're eliminated before that, it stinks. You envision it all going a completely different way, and then it doesn't go that way. Yeah. It's tough. It leaves a bad feeling and you have a bad taste in your mouth. You wish you could Redo it somehow. But that's why we continue to play this game. That's why there's always another season."
Can the team make history and make it to the postseason three years in a row?
"Yes, knowing that we pretty much have the same core group of guys going out there day in, day out on the field… We want to continue to try and do something special, just like every other organization wants to. But with the talent, skill level and drive that this team has, especially coming off these past two years, it's something that we know we're very capable of."