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DNVR Exclusive: Kyle Freeland basking in childhood memories at Spring Training

Drew Creasman Avatar
March 12, 2020

Kyle Freeland is just 26-years-old and entering his fourth year pitching in MLB and yet there are already quite a few classic – dare I say iconic – moments that he has been a part of or even directly responsible for.

He has seen two postseasons, finished fourth in Cy Young voting, out-dueled the winningest pitcher in MLB postseason history in a Wild Card game, nearly thrown a no-hitter at Coors Field, and cemented himself as a fan-favorite playing on the team he grew up rooting for.

But one of the most enduring images of Freeland’s career, wherever it goes from here, will be the tears of pure joy he shed, falling into his father’s arms, the moment he learned that he would one day don the purple pinstripes.

Perhaps, if even deep down, one of the reasons Freeland felt so much emotion was knowing that he was, after years of hard work, going to share a clubhouse with players he cheered on throughout most of his life from home or out in the stands.

“I feel fortunate to have been able to play a couple of years with CarGo, play a couple of years with Chris [Iannetta],” he says 

He probably did not expect that one day Ubaldo Jimenez would join that list of names.

“To be able to share a clubhouse with Ubaldo and hopefully be able to play a season with him? A lot of childhood memories watching those guys, especially him as a pitcher, coming back.”

Freeland has never shied away from talking about his childhood fandom, his love for his home city, and how honored he is to wear “CR” on his cap. As the years go on, though, his ability to drink in the experience of sharing these moments with his idols become fewer an farther between.

So he’s taking it all in.

He couldn’t help but get excited, he says, over an encounter on March 2 in a meaningless spring game because it happened to be a battle between two of the best in franchise history.

Ubaldo vs. CarGo.

“Those two guys, you know, two of the best, good friends and teammates. There’s a difference seeing them face off against each other. But, very cool at the same time. Especially for Ubaldo not playing baseball for two years now. And then coming back and trying to make a team and he looked sharp out there.”

Like a kid in a candy store, for maybe the only time in his career, the ultra-competitive Freeland was rooting for both players.

Everyone in the Colorado clubhouse knows who the most dominant pitcher in franchise history is. But Freeland lived it. He cheered on from home and hung on every pitch, especially in that magical 2010 season, just like the rest of us.

He isn’t just basking in the memories though. Despite only getting a handful of opportunities, Freeland says he is trying to use this situation to his advantage on the field as well.

“We haven’t been in the same group so its kind of hard to pick his brain a little bit. But, I’ve had a couple of conversations with him, definitely. If he’s able to break with the team then definitely sitting down and talking to him about pitching, especially at Coors Field.”

And he recognizes the unique situation he is in while he and his younger teammates come for the King’s crown.

“Ubaldo set the bar,” he says. “And then you’ve got Marquez and Gray who strike out a lot of guys, and they’re climbing that ladder, chasing him. He set the bar and those two are fighting tooth and nail going after that.”

In fact, if Gray manages to match his strikeout total from a year ago of 150, he will move comfortably past Jimenez, taking over the second place spot on the team’s all-time strikeouts leaderboard. He already stands atop the charts in terms of K/9.

If Marquez matches his total of 175 from last season, he will be tied with Jeff Francis for fourth most fans in franchise history.

Freeland knows that he doesn’t quite rack up the punchouts the way his rotation brothers do. But he also knows that, if he gets back on track, he can start to work his way up plenty of franchise lists as well.

I ask what stat he would most like to be the champion of for this franchise. Strikeouts? Wins? ERA?

“I’ve got that,” he says without hesitation. “Cause I took that from him.” Freeland points across the room at a childhood hero.  

Always the competitor.

After he brushed away his smile for an accomplishment nobody can ever take away from him, he set his sights on the future.

“I would probably say wins,” he says. “That’s a pretty cool category to have a franchise record in. Just because it’s hard to win ballgames at Coors Field with all the talk about thin air and everything like that, it would be nice to have that. The one I have, ERA, is pretty special because it shows you can have extremely good success at high altitude.”

But to get the wins, he says, “I’ll have to prove it for a long time.”


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