Freeland, mom bond over baseball

Freeland, mom bond over baseball

DENVER -- Rockies rookie left-handed pitcher Kyle Freeland isn't scheduled for his next start until Tuesday, which means he can celebrate two occasions Sunday: Mother's Day with his mom, Susan, and his 24th birthday.

And he'll do both in his hometown.

Freeland has had quite a few special occasions at home. The Denver native and Thomas Jefferson High School graduate received the honor of making his Major League debut -- in the home opener in front of the entire family on April 7. Freeland pitched out of first-inning trouble and held the Dodgers to one run and four hits in six innings of the Rockies' 2-1 victory.

Freeland's poise wowed his mother, as it always does. Susan played softball growing up.

"I do not have his calm demeanor," said Susan Freeland, who works as secretary at Holm Elementary School in southeast Denver. "They put me in once to pitch, and I was a nervous wreck. I don't know how he does that."

As a youngster, he said, "I would try to think of myself as certain pitchers, like Jeff Francis … Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa." His mom saw that, especially when they would run home from lunch from the elementary school and play catch.

"When you think about baseball, you think of dad and kid, but she was behind the scenes, doing a lot of work," Freeland said. "She'd be in the backyard with me when I was little and dad was at work and she'd be home for lunch. She's be throwing balls in the backyard and I'd be saying, 'One more.'"

Freeland K's six in MLB debut

Now he was pitching -- as himself, not imitating one of his idols -- right there at Coors. It would have been nice if he could have seen his mom's face during the home opener.

"I really wasn't able to see them," he said. "We had a pretty packed house that day, but I knew what section they were in. I'd kind of glance up every once in a while and try to pick them up. But I could feel that they were there."

His mother was right there with him.

When Freeland began consistently hitting the strike zone, meaning he had settled in, she calmed somewhat but couldn't quite relax. She had a good enough time to answer texts from folks who saw her face on television and she enjoyed the company among the family. It wasn't until Freeland left the game, though, that she truly relaxed.

"We always joked about your first time up there, just expect that it's going to get blown apart -- expect the worst because you're out there and the nerves are going to get you," she said. "It was wonderful to see how he held it together. I have no idea how he can do that, but he enjoyed it and we definitely enjoyed it."

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