Chad Bettis simply couldn’t hide his smile on Tuesday in front of the cameras inside Coors Field. The Colorado Rockies pitcher knew he had accomplished one of his goals by walking back through the doors that he took for granted before his battle with cancer.
After weeks of chemotherapy treatment to battle the cancer that had spread after his initial battle with testicular cancer in the winter, Bettis stood before a packed Coors Field clubhouse. Wearing a Colorado Rockies hat and sweatshirt, Bettis was more than a cancer survivor on Tuesday. He was a baseball player.
"“How do I feel to get back? It feels great,” Bettis beamed. “Physically, I feel good but this is way more mentally a weight off my shoulders to be back with my teammates and brothers.”"
Tuesday marked the first time Bettis had been in a clubhouse with his teammates since paying them a visit in Arizona when the Rockies and Diamondbacks squared off in late April. Tuesday, however, was different for the 27-year-old right-hander.
"“I think it was really therapeutic to be with the team down in Arizona,” Bettis said. “Maybe more so here just for the fact that it’s home. My family and I are here now and I get to travel to the team. It’s the process of getting back and getting back to playing ball. I’m a baseball player. I feel like that’s what I need to do. Whatever I can do to help this team, I’m here for them.”"
Bettis stood at the podium at Coors Field just six days after having the port removed from under his left clavicle. He said his first workout in Denver on Tuesday was a light workout day which involved him throwing 75 to 90 feet and throwing five pitches off flat ground. It’s a continuation of the workout that saw Bettis lifting weights and throwing off flat ground during his chemotherapy.
He knows he is a ways away from returning to the mound. However, he also knows he is closer today than he was yesterday. It’s not an easy battle but it’s one Bettis is adamant he will win after his stamina returns.
"“I feel like the strength is there. I would say it’s much more the stamina,” Bettis said. “Going through the chemo, I realized what that can do with your lungs. I have to get that back. I found myself a little bit short of breath today at the very end of throwing.”"
So when is he coming back to the Rockies? That seems to be the burning question after the initial questions about his current health. Bettis was aggressive with a timeline while maintaining he was going to have to be patient as well.
"“Everybody wants a timeline. Everyone wants to know when that’s going to be,” Bettis said. “For me, I’ll tell you right now, I want to be back by All-Star break. I don’t know if that’s realistic. I think it is for me. But I’m me. It’s tough because everybody wants a timeline. Everybody wants to know when that date will be. I could give you a timeline and a set date but that could be wrong. It could be before that. It could be after that.“I think we have to be very cautious about moving too fast. I do agree that we need to build this back the right way so there’s no setbacks. We have to approach this a little different. This wasn’t a baseball injury. This wasn’t something that was a freak accident. This was something you don’t prepare for.”"
Colorado manager Bud Black dismissed a set timeline for Bettis quickly when asked about it.
"“I think that’s unfair to put a date on that. Chad will do everything that he’s capable of in the next few weeks to get him closer to the mound and closer to a game,” Black said."
Then Black smiled.
"“It’d be nice to think that maybe sometime in July. That’d be nice. There are 30 days in July.”"
Black said having Bettis back in the clubhouse was an emotional boost for his squad.
"“We’re excited to have him back,” Black stated. “I know he’s excited. He’s pumped. And now he starts a new process. I’m not sure what he shared with you guys but I do know this … we’re happy to have him back!”"
Bettis is happy to be back but he also comes back a changed man with a changed vision.
"“Baseball is secondary,” Bettis said. “I think your perspective changes vastly. It doesn’t become about your job any more. It becomes about your life. My perspective has changed but I’ve also grown to appreciate baseball even more. It’s all secondary. What’s first is my family. That’s what got me through this for sure.”"