Cancer Changed Bettis' Values But Not His Competiveness
SURPRISE, Az. – Things are back to normal for Chad Bettis, sort of.
He’s in spring training with the Rockies, getting ready for the start of the regular season, building up arm strength with the goal of getting back to a regular 95 miles per hour velocity.
Only it’s different.
What once was normal for Bettis will never be again, not after last year, not after a battle with testicular cancer that was diagnosed on his first anniversary, Nov. 21, 2016, and led to surgery just before Christmas in 2016, and then saw him undergo his typical spring training physical last spring in which doctors discovered the cancer had moved into his lymph nodes and led to him beginning chemotherapy just days before the birth of his daughter Everleigh Rae.
Things will never be the same again.
Bettis’ world has expanded beyond the ballpark. Oh, the game will always be an important part of his life, and his competitive nature won’t let him back off the desire to excel. Bettis, however, must admit after the battle with cancer his values have changed his priorities in life.
“That was a very learning experience, that we don’t control everything that happens to us, that we have to roll with what is going on,” said Bettis. “Without my family and my support system and my wife, with Everleigh coming along, it would have been a completely different experience.
“I think I’m in a better place than I have ever been. With everything we had to go through last year things will not get harder. Knowing I’m on the other side of that now helps my mentality.”
And so does getting back on the mound on a sunny but cool day in Arizona, making that first start of spring against the Rangers on Sunday afternoon, and needing only 25 pitches to get through two innings that began with a leadoff walk, which was followed by Bettis retiring the next six batters.
“I’m working on building up to the start of the season,” he said. “I would like to get back to 95 (miles per hour with the fastball) on a consistent basis. I feel I’m a lot better prepared (than in the past). I came to spring training with my weight where I want it to be (205 pounds). Unfortunately, it took two years.”
It’s there. His fastball was steady in the 90-to-93 mile per hour range, but one of the seven he threw hit 95. His registered at 82 to 84 miles per hour on the radar gun at Surprise Ballpark, his curveball 78 to 82 miles per hour, and the one changeup he threw it 85.
“A start,” he said.
An important start from the Rockies standpoint. Bettis may just turn 29 on April 26, but he is the elder statesman among the seven candidates for the Rockies rotation. He’s also the only one that has more than two years of big-league service time.
He welcomes that elder statesman role, and he knows he will set the tone at least in mental approach, for the rest of the staff.
Now, don’t get the wrong idea. With what he has gone through in the last year Bettis’ value system has been revised, but the competitor within him still burns. He is focused during preparations and when he is on a mound he is intent on focusing on what it is going to take for him to be an elite pitcher, not just another body in a uniform.
“I’m coming back with a bit of a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I basically missed a whole year. It’s time for me to step up and be a better pitcher.”