DENVER – Very few people can understand what the last six months have been like for Chad Bettis. Not only did the Rockies pitcher receive the dreaded news that he had been diagnosed with testicular cancer back in November, but Bettis learned in the middle of his recovery, on March 20, that the cancer had spread once more. After hearing this news, Bettis remained strong, poised and determined, and didn’t let the cancer — or the fact that he would be missing a significant part of the 2017 season — get to his head.
Not even three months later, Bettis found himself back in the Rockies clubhouse, discussing a return timeline with the media, undoubtedly, a changed man.
“I think your perspective changes vastly. It doesn’t become about your job anymore, it becomes about your life,” Bettis told the gathered, including BSN Denver. “My perspective has changed, and I’ve grown to appreciate baseball even moreso, but it’s all secondary. What’s first is my family and that’s what got me through this for sure.”
Make no mistake, no matter who goes through anything remotely close to what Bettis has had to endure recently, it’s not easy and everyone handles the difficult news of being diagnosed with cancer differently. The combination of the diagnosis, the chemotherapy, the recovery and the hoping that you will one day be cancer free can eat at anyone. It can take a toll on one’s mind and body, and more often than not, it does.
Chad’s main goal was to stay strong mentally and be with his family as he processed everything he would have to go through, while slowly working progressively from one goal to the next. All the time that Bettis spent away from baseball may have felt strange to him and those around him, but it has turned him into a stronger person today and it is evident that he will carry his experiences with him as he nears his return to the diamond sporting a Colorado Rockies uniform.
The Rockies 28-year old starting pitcher quietly led the Rockies staff in wins and innings pitched last season. He was without question the main workhorse of the 2016 season and he was widely known for his consistency, especially when it came to pitching deep into games. This is the largest physical hurdle that Bettis believes lies between where he stands now and getting into MLB-ready shape.
“The strength is there. I would say it’s much more the stamina,” Bettis said. “Going through the chemotherapy, I’ve realized what that can do to your bones, and now I’ve got to get back to where I was. It’s something that I feel like individually, I need to understand where that mark is and not get crazy and push the envelope, but at the same time, get to the point where I’m able to build that lung capacity back and keep moving forward.”
Bettis compared this feeling to finishing an MLB season, taking a month off to recover, and then running a 400-yard dash on the spot. It sounds pretty rough because it is pretty rough. Even though Chad is handling the mental side of this difficult experience with nothing but class and professionalism, he still has a mountain to climb in order to regain the stamina he once possessed as one of the Rockies more durable starting pitchers.
When Bettis was asked what his favorite part of being back with his team was, he said, “Just being with all the guys. You know, it’s funny because there are times where people don’t know what to say to you. But at the same time, it just takes time for that to wear off, and I think being here with the guys is so beneficial to me just from a mental side. I get to relax and I get to be one of the guys again, and just hang out.”
Sometimes, being surrounded by your family is all a guy like Bettis needs in a situation like this. Not just his wife and newborn baby daughter, but the 25 brothers (and counting) who play baseball for a living. They have been with Bettis every step of the way since his diagnosis, and he knows that. They were there to lift his spirits when he needed them most, and now he is returning to the clubhouse give his NL West Division-leading Rockies an emotional boost of his own. He feels at “home.”
The Rockies have been clicking on nearly all cylinders thus far this season. Now there is potential for one of their veteran starting pitchers to rejoin them later in the 2017 season. There is a strong dynamic in the Rockies clubhouse this year, and the return of one of the most admired starting pitchers in the entire organization will only build upon that.
Yogi Bera once said, “Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical.”
Chad Bettis is healthy and he is back in a Rockies uniform. Mentally stronger than ever. It feels good just saying that.