The last few months have been pretty strange for everyone, and the last 11 months or so has been even more different for Scott Oberg, the Tewksbury native who is now in his sixth year of pitching in Major League Baseball with the Colorado Rockies.
In August of last year, his best season to date was cut short due to 'axillary artery thrombosis', which is blood clots in his arm', and injury which previously occurred during the 2016 season.
He had a procedure done to repair the issue, and went through a normal rehabilitation process. Then in the off-season, the organization rewarded him with a three-year contract. He prepared like all of the other pro players for a regular spring training – and despite feeling 100 percent healthy, the Arizona season ended abruptly due to Covid-19. So from March until fairly recently when talks heated up that there would be a season, he was the Rockies' player agent, who was involved with the contract talks with the owners, all the while, he stayed at home in New Jersey along with his wife and their infant daughter,
On July 4th, he met the Colorado Sports Media on a zoom session and was asked about the upcoming season with many new guidelines in place because of the pandemic and all of the changes going on, including a 60-game season, playing against just NL and AL West opponents, having a Universal DH, among other rule changes.
“Guys are upbeat,” he said. “It's fun to be back. This is definitely our second extended family, so to speak.”
Oberg was asked how he spent the off-season, despite the pandemic. He said that he seldom left his home and worked out at his Gloucester County home, which is outside of Philadelphia, and worked out at home by having a mound in his backyard and a throwing net, while using his own weight room equipment.
Once the players association and owners were in agreement to play the season, Oberg said he had to make a decision of whether or not he would be playing. He reached out to his rheumatologist.
“For me, it’s just a matter of sticking with the protocols that are in place, holding myself to a higher standard — always wear my mask, no matter where I’m at and not try to take too many chances,” he said. “I’m always washing my hands, hitting the dispensers we have around the clubhouse, just always do as many of the little things as I possibly can to keep myself as healthy as possible.
“Once I started seeing some of the protocols early on, I was actually pretty encouraged. It’s also dependent on myself to make the right decisions away from the ballpark.”
He would later say, “We have to understand that this thing is bigger than all of us, and if it’s a little bit of an inconvenience for me to wear a mask to protect somebody else, I’m going to do that. We have to remove ourselves from the equation a little bit. Take our egos out of it, make sure that we’re going the right thing not only for our teammates but for our community members as well.”
The Rockies season will begin on July 24th against Texas. Oberg knows that things will continue to be very different from the start of that game to hopefully the end of the season – which would include a playoff run.
“It’s going to be a little bit strange,” Oberg said. “As pitchers, we have to carry our own baseballs everywhere. We have our own rosin bag. Some of those community-sharing type of things that we normally have are no longer there for this year, so I think it’s consciously being aware of those little things along the way.”
The last two years, Oberg has been extremely consistent, which came after four years of being a bit inconsistent. In 2018, he finished 8-1 with a 2.45 ERA. He appeared in 56 games, throwing 58.2 innings and struck out 57 batters. Last year, he was 6-1 with a 2.25 ERA. In 49 games, he threw 56 innings and struck out 58 batters. He has a career mark of 18-8 with a 3.85 ERA, appearing in 259 games, all as a reliever and all with the Rockies.
Despite not making any major additions to the team during the off-season and losing outfielder Ian Desmond, who elected not to play because of the pandemic, Oberg said he likes the Rockies' chances of getting back to post-season play for what would be the third time in the last four years.
“You never really know what’s going to happen in a 60-game season,” he said. We’ve historically started off pretty hot and hopefully we can continue that and put ourselves in a position to be in contention for a division title and going into a playoff scenario.”