Chicago Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy is 38 years old, not much older than many of the arms he will be overseeing as Major League Baseball attempts to play a 60-game season through the teeth of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Young and healthy, Hottovy is far from the at-risk individual some teams, including the Minnesota Twins, may try to shield from exposure to the virus.
But as players and staff report to home ballparks in advance of first workouts that begin Friday, Hottovy feels fortunate to be among them. In a radio interview Wednesday, Hottovy revealed he was hospitalized last month with COVID-19, lost 18 pounds while battling the virus and suffered through six consecutive days of temperatures in excess of 100 degrees.
"I got crushed," he told 670-AM The Score in Chicago.
Beyond the simple life-and-death implications of COVID-19, Hottovy's case illustrates the seemingly limitless outcomes the virus can produce - and that while many cases are minor, some are far more threatening to an athlete's livelihood.
"It is important to understand that I'm 38 years old," says Hottovy, who pitched in the major leagues with Boston and Kansas City in 2011 and 2012. "I've been poked, prodded, tested for the last 16 years in Major League Baseball. I've had no underlying issues, nothing that would red flag me as somebody that would get hit pretty hard with this virus.
"But I did. My journey through this virus was not like ones you hear of younger people who are asymptomatic or only have it for a few days. I did have to go the hospital for a little bit of time to get checked and do all the breathing treatments."
In anticipation of positive COVID-19 tests, MLB has established an injured list specifically for players who test positive, and it has no minimum or maximum stay. Teams may also summon replacements from a 60-player pool, with an eye toward not just the usual injuries in a regular season, but also the possibly of coronavirus outbreaks within major league rosters.
But Hottovy's tale illustrates that some cases may not be resolved by a simple 14-day quarantine.
He said that "days eight through 14" he suffered significant respiratory issues and contracted what doctors called "COVID pneumonia."
Additionally, he said, he felt depressed and guilty for exposing his family to the virus, though his wife and children tested negative.
Hottovy pondered opting out of the season but says he will report with the club, even if he's far from prime physical conditoin.
“The lung capacity, the shortness of breath, the cardiovascular, I’m nowhere near (normal)," he said.