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There aren’t a lot of players in Major League Baseball who have had a career quite like Colorado Rockies reliever Daniel Bard. There are even fewer who are as open and honest about that kind of career.
All journeys to the big league come fitted with speed bumps, roadblocks and the required perseverance to get on the other side. For Bard, it started somewhat traditionally: first-round pick out of UNC-Chapel Hill, some struggles transitioning to the professional game followed by even more success later in the minors and then the debut in 2009 with the Boston Red Sox.
It’s what happened when he lost his way as a pitcher and retired that makes Bard different, opting for a stint as a player mentor and mental skills coach in order to stay in the game. Even after a successful return to the mound and winning the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year Award, there were issues with anxiety that he’s openly and bravely discussed throughout this season.
Bard isn’t honest to a fault. He’s just more honest than most when it comes to speaking from his experiences and from what lies in his heart.
Everything about his return to the Majors has been publicized as well as much pertaining to that initial fallout and path to redemption. Even his self-deprecating sense of humor has been put on display from time to time.
But there are parts to the years before he established himself a big leaguer that would be as entertaining as listening to anything he has to offer. What was it like playing for the Honolulu Sharks in the short-lived Hawaiian Winter Baseball League? How intense are the New England fans in Pawtucket, R.I. and Portland, Maine?
And then, the inevitable questions about what it was like be a part of an iconic franchise halfway through the quest of four World Series rings in 14 years. Did you ever catch one of Tim Wakefield’s knuckleballs? How tall was Dustin Pedroia, really? Did David Ortíz actually refer to everyone as Papi?
Daniel Bard went through it all in Boston pic.twitter.com/LTlCono9Eb
— Section 10 Podcast (@Section10Pod) March 15, 2021
Less than six hours before he would head back to Boston for the first time since 2013 when severe control issues became an issue and it all began to unravel for him, Bard took time to reflect upon what a return to Fenway Park means to him and his family.
This will be your first time back in Boston in 10 years, correct? How are you feeling about that?
Good. I’m excited. It’s something I hoped I’d be around for, a chance to go back and play there again. My wife and kids will be there. So that’ll be cool. I spent four and a half years there. So we’re excited.
After coming back in 2020 and the subsequent years, have there been other places that you’ve visited and thought, ‘I’m like a different person since the last time I was here?’
Wrigley was one. I never actually pitched in Wrigley before being a Rockie, but I was with the Cubs for a minute in ’13. I was in Chicago, I was throwing bullpens and I was kind of messed up and I wasn’t even active. But same thing. I was like, ‘Man, last time I was here, I was just hanging on for dear life.’ So that was one for sure.
Philly, too, I guess. We’ve gone back there. I made a start there in 2012. Didn’t go very well. Got my first big league at bat there. But yeah, I was just thinking I basically have had two separate careers.
Have some of the guys been asking you to show them around Boston or the ballpark?
They’re like, ‘Hey, you’re gonna get a welcome back video?’ And I’m like, ‘I think I was there so long ago, none of the same people work there.’ No, I’m not counting on anything. I’ll just try to enjoy the experience.
One thing I was mad at myself (about): I never signed inside the Green Monster. Even visiting players go and do that all time. I played there for four years, and it was always one of the things like, ‘I’ll do it tomorrow, or next year or whatever.’ And then I was gone, and I never did it. So I gotta make sure I sign inside the wall.
— Tyler Milliken ⚾️ (@tylermilliken_) October 23, 2020
I’m excited. It holds a special place for me in a lot of ways. I grew up going to games there. My grandfather was from the Boston area, so I went to games there as a 10-12 year old. First time I stepped on the field was during the Cape Cod All-Star Festivities, they did them there. I got drafted by the Red Sox. Red Sox baseball has been in my family for generations. It holds a special place. To me (Fenway Park) is as magical as a baseball venue gets. You can feel the history when you step step in the building.
I know Coors Field doesn’t have the same history, but as far as ballparks go — maybe it’s a little harder because you’re here all the time — is this kind of a modern classic, in a sense?
I came here for the first time in 2010 when I was with the Red Sox and it instantly became one of my top five. I love the visiting bullpen, how you could walk around the nature (of the batter’s eye) in centerfield. For being an outdoors guy, that was a welcome retreat that you don’t get in really any ballpark. It’s the only one that has something like that. Even our home side has trees and rocks. And then you’re close to the mountains and all that. When I was playing in Boston, before all the shit hit the fan, I always said it’d be cool to play for the Rockies one day, if I got to pick. And I got to pick. And I’m here. But as far as modern goes, I think this is top five for sure.
Bard isn’t the only one with ties to Boston. Connor Seabold returns to Fenway Park after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox and traded to Colorado this offseason.
“It’s business,” Seabold said of the transaction. “I am trying to go and prove something, but it’s all in respect and everything. It didn’t work out there. And I totally get why they felt like they wanted to move on.”
Seabold also never put his signature inside the Green Monster. If he isn’t able to do it on Monday before his eighth start of the season, he’ll have two more opportunities on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“There’s a lot of history there and it’s really cool vibe,” shared Seabold. “I’m just hoping to go out, have a good game and enjoy being back there.”
Monday, June 12 – 5:10 p.m. RHP Connor Seabold (1-2, 5.10) vs. LHP James Paxton (2-1, 3.81)
Tuesday, June 13 – 5:10 p.m. RHP Chase Anderson (0-0, 2.67) vs. RHP Kutter Crawford (1-3, 3.68)
Wednesday, June 14 – 5:10 p.m. LHP Austin Gomber (4-5, 7.57) vs. TBA