It's easy when you're young to dream about one day winning a championship for your hometown team. But for Denver native Kyle Freeland, who will be taking the mound for the Rockies on Opening Day, Friday, April 5, it could become reality.
Born in May 1993, Freeland has been alive for about as long as the Rockies have been playing in the MLB. And while the team was earning respect from fellow franchises, the now six-foot-four, 200-pound Freeland was developing his baseball chops right here in Denver.
Freeland played high school ball at Thomas Jefferson High School and earned an all-state nomination from the Denver Post. During his senior year, Freeland, then an inch shorter and thirty pounds lighter than he is now, went 8-3 with a 1.39 earned run average. He also struck out 136 batters, which was the best in Colorado that season, according to the Post.
Always on the search for the next great left-handed pitcher, MLB teams began to notice Freeland's talent. Still, the Philadelphia Phillies drafted him in the 35th round of the 2011 MLB draft. So instead of signing with the Phillies, Freeland enrolled at the University of Evansville, in Indiana.
While in college, Freeland continued his dominance, becoming a strikeout machine and working his way to the top of the charts of MLB draft prospects. The Rockies chose Freeland with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
The Rockies kept Freeland in the minors for a few years before he made his MLB debut in April 2017. Three months later, Freeland showed off his talent by getting just two outs away from a no-hitter before giving up a hit to Melky Cabrera in the ninth inning. Freeland went on to finish his first season for the Rockies with eleven wins and eleven losses.
In 2018, Freeland took his game to another level, finishing fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting after racking up seventeen wins, just seven losses and a 2.85 ERA. Impressively, Freeland won ten games to just two losses while racking up a franchise-best 2.40 ERA at Coors Field, a stadium famous for being hitter-friendly.
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If he performs at the same level or better this season, the Rockies have a real shot at competing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division win.
The team's talent on the offensive side is obvious. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon will still be cranking their bats this season, with newly signed Daniel Murphy adding to the team's firepower.
But whether this team gets swept in the first round of playoffs like it did in 2018 or brings a championship trophy to Colorado will depend on its homegrown pitcher.
The Rockies play the Miami Marlins today at 2:10 p.m. Mountain Time in Florida. Colorado will host its first game at Coors Field on Friday, April 5, at 2:10 p.m., against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-game series.