Freeland fulfills dream of playing for Rockies

Young pitcher went to games as kid, excited about debut

Freeland fulfills dream of playing for Rockies

MILWAUKEE -- Some lucky child -- maybe too young for school or maybe with parents who will back a story of being too "ill" for school -- will take that walk to Coors Field on Friday afternoon for the home opener against the Dodgers.

Just one hand will be available for mom or dad to hold. The other will be stuffed in a baseball glove.

The youngster will have a dream. Kyle Freeland, who was that little boy years ago, will see his come true.

Freeland's parents, Don, who works at a Home Depot, and Susan, the secretary at Denver's Holm Elementary (where Freeland went to school), never let him skip school, so at first, he barely remembered his first opener.

But when the memories came back, they flooded.

"My mom used to work for Xcel Energy, and they had a lot, so we'd park in that lot and walk about eight blocks or so to the field," said Freeland, 23, the Rockies' top pick in 2014. "I remember that walk. As you get closer, you see people selling peanuts. Then you get to the stadium and everybody's crowding, trying to get in.

"I wasn't. I brought my glove when I came, but I was never throwing the ball around. I was hoping a fly ball would come into my section and I would catch it. I never even came close. It never came to me."

Freeland cheered for the home team, glove in hand. But one night his desire for a baseball hit from the field took over.

"I remember one game we were sitting out in left field and we were playing the Cubs," Freeland said, smiling. "Sammy Sosa was there. He was having a crazy night. They were killing us. He had a homer to right, had a homer to center. Right before his third at-bat, they pulled him from the game while I was thinking, 'He has to hit one to left.'"

Any affection Freeland had for any team but the Rockies disappeared during the emotional moment in his living room when he was selected eighth overall by the Rockies. It was captured on MLB Network.

Rockies draft LHP Freeland No. 8

"I think I was so excited that the hometown team drafted me," he said. "But I'm sure afterwards I thought of it like, 'Man, I can't wait to be able to make my debut with them and enjoy that experience.'"

Of course, Freeland hopes no one in any part of the stands catches a home run hit by a Dodger. The idea is to continue the control he displayed in Spring Training, when he went 2-2 with a 3.48 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.

It's been a hectic few days since Sunday, when manager Bud Black made his starting assignment official. But Freeland has handled the well-wishing without letting it disturb his preparation. He made sure his brother, Colin, and his wife, who live in Florida, had a plane ticket, and he made sure those who supported him were on his ticket list. Beyond that, Freeland made sure he wasn't pulled in many directions by well-meaning folks.

Besides, the dream goes beyond Friday, when he will become the 17th player and the 13th pitcher to reach the Majors from the 2014 Draft.

"I'm definitely going to soak in that first day," Freeland said. "But my goal is definitely to stick, have a long, fulfilling career and have a ton of success."

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.