It was smack dab in the middle of basesball's COVID-19-induced hiatus. The May phone conversation started with questions regarding what it was like to be a team's player rep, with those sort of folks seemingly being forced into action more than ever thanks to the game's sudden uncertainties.
As always, Daniel Bard was insightful on the matter. He reflected on his time in the role with the Red Sox, while breaking the awesomely-constructed word "voluntold" when explaining how he had been thrust into the position.
Then came the catching up.
Bard talked about how he was making a comeback with the Rockies after having just recently retired, taking a job in the Diamondback's front office. Throughout the years since the pitcher's career started its downward trajectory, there were other waves of optimism, citing reset buttons, health issues and mindset adjustments. But there was one line that stood out this time.
"I haven't felt this way since 2010," Bard said.
That was something.
In case you don't remember, a decade ago Bard was among the best relievers in baseball, serving as a legitimate weapon when setting up then-closer Jonathan Papelbon. He was the one guy in baseball you could bring in with runners on first and third and nobody out and believe there was going to be at least two strikeouts and certainly no runs. He was throwing 100 mph when it was actually a rarity and doing in it a way which made hitters seem like they were facing fastballs 10 mph faster than the actual radar gun reading.
Then came the last month of the 2011 season, during the Red Sox' historic collapse, and the effectiveness started to wane. Most chalked it up to overuse. But the following spring training, when the Red Sox tried to make him a starter his fastball had suddenly dipped 6 mph. That was followed by an inability to throw strikes. The last game he would start as a big leaguer came on June 3, 2012, ending after five runs on six walks and just one hit over 1 2/3 innings.
Bard would reappear for the final month of that season, still struggling to find the plate and his stuff. The following year wasn't any better, with the righty getting his World Series ring off of just two April relief appearances. April 27, 2013. That was the date he walked off a major league mound for the last time ... Or so we thought.
It wasn't like Bard just gave up that day. He went on to have mostly uncomfortable stints in the minor-league fields of the Cubs, Cardinals and Pirates, while even not managing to make it through more than three outings in the Puerto Rican Winter League. (His line with Caguas during that offseason prior to 2014? Three games, one out, no hits, nine walks.) But nothing was working, ultimately leading him to embrace life after baseball with his position with the Diamondbacks.
But this time that optimism was warranted.
Friday Rockies manager Bud Black told Bard had made the Opening Day roster. If he pitches that first game it will be exactly 2,654 days between big-league appearances.
In a year of bad stories, we finally found a good one. And with it predictably came another great piece of perspective from Bard.
"If anything," he told reporters, "I'm very accustomed to pitching with no fans, given all the back fields I've had to throw on."