Not to make you feel old or anything but when Kyle Freeland was growing up on the south side of town, one of his favorite Colorado Rockies’ pitchers was Jeff Francis.
You know, way back in 2004, when Francis made his big-league debut.
Freeland was 11 then, just starting his sixth-grade year. An impressionable time for a baseball fan. Freeland is 23 now, getting ready to make his big-league debut for not only his hometown Rockies but in their home opener Friday afternoon against the defending division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
“My emotions are going to be running high, but for me it’s going to be staying focused on the task at hand,’’ Freeland said Tuesday afternoon in a conference call with the Denver media while he was in the Milwaukee Brewers’ visiting clubhouse. “I’m not letting any outside factors affect me. Control my breathing and take my breaths when I need them.’’
Freeland is a four-pitch (since he rediscovered his changeup in the minors last year), lanky lefty from Thomas Jefferson High School.
Growing up in Colorado, Freeland should understand the toughest part of pitching Friday won’t be necessarily the Dodgers’ hitters (although maybe), or the excitement of opening day, or having mom, dad, brother, girlfriend, teachers, old coaches and friends watch from the stands.
The toughest part will be performing at Coors Field, which has been a nightmare for pitchers since Freeland was 2.
“My thoughts on that, I actually had the same thought ever since growing up in Colorado through college and then after I got drafted to the Rockies is you still have to execute pitches,’’ he said. “You’ve still got to get the ball on the ground and get outs. I think if you have that mentality pitching at Coors Field, you’re going to have success. I think people get away from that where sometimes they get a little scared or timid from the fact the ball flies a little bit there but you’ve still got to go out there every day and execute pitches down in the zone.’’
Freeland doesn’t remember going to any of the Rockies’ home openers as a kid. His parents wouldn’t let him skip school.
He does remember walking around the Coors Field diamond perimeter with his mom, dad and brother – a pregame honor the Rockies have bestowed upon their youth baseball leaguers since the beginning.
“Coming into the stadium, the sights, the smells, the sounds and everything, I mean I can remember it like it was yesterday,’’ Freeland said.
His favorite players growing up?
“You can go down the list. Helton. Walker. The Blake Street Bombers to name a handful of them,’’ Freeland said. “Loved watching Jeff Francis pitch, Cook pitch.’’
Ah, those long-ago memories of Francis and Aaron Cook. Kids in Colorado grow up fast, don’t they?
One Colorado kid grew up to make his big-league debut for the hometown team’s home opener on Friday. Breathe, kid. Just remember, breathe.
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