VIRUS HIT HOTTOVY HARD
Cubs pitching coach details ordeal of being isolated at home for 30 days
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