VIRUS HIT HOT­TOVY HARD

Cubs pitch­ing coach de­tails or­deal of be­ing iso­lated at home for 30 days

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - STEVE GREENBERG sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @SLGreen­berg

Cubs pitch­ing coach Tommy Hot­tovy didn’t talk much base­ball Wed­nes­day dur­ing a video con­fer­ence call with re­porters.

He was at Wrigley Field, where the team fi­nally as­sem­bled in full ahead of Fri­day’s start of pre­sea­son work­outs, but his fo­cus, at least in the morn­ing, was on the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

As most of the team’s play­ers went through in­take screen­ing at the ball­park — tem­per­a­ture checks, saliva sam­ples, an­ti­body tests — Hot­tovy first went on a lo­cal ra­dio pro­gram, then on Zoom.

Hot­tovy, 38, spilled de­tails of his own har­row­ing, de­bil­i­tat­ing bat­tle with COVID-19, which kept him quar­an­tined in a spare bed­room at home for 30 days. And he spilled tears. The more he re­lived the ex­pe­ri­ence

— es­pe­cially as it re­lated to wife An­drea, 8-year-old Cameron and 6-year-old Chloe — the more the tears came.

“It’s still kind of raw,” he said, dab­bing at his eyes. “The fact that we just got through it and to, like, re­live it? Ob­vi­ously, it af­fected us pretty sig­nif­i­cantly for a month.”

It hit Hot­tovy harder than a lot of peo­ple would ex­pect con­sid­er­ing his age and his seem­ingly ex­cel­lent phys­i­cal con­di­tion. There were strings of sleep­less nights. Fevers that raged all day. He de­vel­oped pneu­mo­nia.

By Day 12 af­ter his symp­toms started — and nine days af­ter he first tested pos­i­tive — his breath­ing was so shal­low that he went to the hos­pi­tal, where he re­ceived flu­ids and his kid­ney and liver func­tions were checked. He avoided be­ing put on a ven­ti­la­tor, but he was sent home with a breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus to help get med­i­ca­tion into his lungs.

He lost nearly 20 pounds. His strength was shot. The fa­tigue was real and — a lit­tle over two weeks since he fi­nally tested neg­a­tive — still is.

“I felt it was im­por­tant to me to talk through what I went through be­cause too much of what’s out there are the easy sto­ries of what peo­ple go through with this,” said Hot­tovy, who es­ti­mated that he’s oper­at­ing at about 80% phys­i­cally.

The emo­tional toll has been real, too.

“I went through some re­ally weird stages through this whole process, like de­pres­sion, think­ing: Did I do some­thing wrong? How could I have put my fam­ily in that kind of sit­u­a­tion?” he said. “It ob­vi­ously af­fects peo­ple dif­fer­ently. But if my story, my jour­ney through this, helps one per­son re­al­ize how se­vere this can get — and if that saves one life — then I want my story to be heard.”

Cubs pitch­ers were aware of Hot­tovy’s ill­ness through­out it be­cause he man­aged to stay on sched­ule with base­ball-re­lated Zoom meet­ings, though at times it was hard. Dur­ing one meet­ing, Hot­tovy strug­gled even to speak, lead­ing man­ager David Ross to take over for him.

Mean­while, An­drea was a pil­lar of strength and, out of ne­ces­sity, a clean­ing ma­chine, stay­ing up deep into the night to wipe down ev­ery­thing in the house. In iso­la­tion, but un­der the same roof, Hot­tovy Face­Timed with his chil­dren daily. When he felt up to it, he sat out­side — far re­moved from the ac­tion — and watched them play.

More than once, he spoke with An­drea about opt­ing out of the sea­son.

“There were times I was like, ‘There’s no way I want to go back. There’s no way I want to put my­self into this sit­u­a­tion again,” he said. “But I think hav­ing gone through it and hav­ing lived it, it’s im­por­tant for me and our fam­ily to be ac­ces­si­ble to these guys and be around [as] a re­source through this whole process.”

Hot­tovy wants team­mates, play­ers around the league and ev­ery­one else to un­der­stand that even pro­fes­sional ath­letes aren’t cloaked in in­vin­ci­bil­ity — that “if they get it, they’ll be fine, they won’t die,” as he put it, is wrong-headed think­ing.

He plans to be around to tell any­one in the Cubs’ bub­ble who needs to hear it. Emo­tions are still raw, but he’s happy and re­lieved to be back at work and see­ing play­ers and coaches in the flesh.

“It’s ab­so­lutely a bless­ing,” he said. “For sure.”

“IT OB­VI­OUSLY AF­FECTS PEO­PLE DIF­FER­ENTLY. BUT IF MY STORY, MY JOUR­NEY THROUGH THIS, HELPS ONE PER­SON RE­AL­IZE HOW SE­VERE THIS CAN GET — AND IF THAT SAVES ONE LIFE — THEN I WANT MY STORY TO BE HEARD.” TOMMY HOT­TOVY, Cubs pitch­ing coach, on bat­tling COVID-19

AP

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