‘Life’s fragile’: Braves pitcher Collin McHugh presses on after father’s death

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

NORTH PORT, Fla. - When the waves of grief come, Collin McHugh doesn’t do anything. He won’t try to escape them. Instead, he acknowledges them.

“At least for me, you just have to be aware that you’re not in control of when they come up or how you remember it or when you remember it,” McHugh said. “You just try to remember the good things and stay with it through the bad things. You can’t let it go, you can’t move it out of your perspective or out of your point of view.

“It is a part of who you are and a part of your story, so I want to recognize it for what it is.”

Two years ago, McHugh’s father, Scott, died after battling prostate cancer for almost six years. When he died, Scott, a pastor and huge Braves fan, left a void the family has dealt with ever since.

McHugh believes his father’s death is an important part of his story. Scott and Collin shared a love of the Braves, something that became even more in focus after Collin, a right-handed reliever, signed a two-year deal with his hometown team. In the days since Collin signed the contract, he and his family members have talked about how excited and proud his dad would have been.

Throughout the grieving process, McHugh has felt a shift in his perspective on life. “Understanding that life’s fragile,” he said. “The only constant in life is change.” As he processed his emotions, his baseball career continued.

Scott was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. He underwent all kinds of treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “But by the time he was getting sicker and toward the end,” McHugh said, “I think we were all just trying to prepare for what life would be like on the other side of this.” They understood life would go on.

“You’ve got to continue to press forward,” McHugh said, “and love the people that you love well, and not take anything for granted.”

Scott died weeks before COVID-19 shut down the world. The McHughs felt fortunate they could celebrate his life and begin to support his mom, Teresa, like normal before the pandemic. Another positive: COVID-19 delayed the baseball season, which meant Collin had more space to process everything before jumping into the grind.

Since Scott’s death, Collin and his three siblings – two brothers, one sister – have tried to be around their mom as much as possible. They’re intentional about getting together as a family. All of this will be much easier now that Collin is pitching for the Braves and will be close to his mother.

McHugh has pitched in the majors since 2012. He’s now playing for his fifth team. When Scott was battling prostate cancer, Collin played for the Astros during a successful run in which they won a World Series. McHugh opted out of the 2020 season because of the pandemic, which means last season marked his first playing baseball since his dad died.

“You just do it. You don’t have a choice,” McHugh said. “You can shut down or you can keep moving forward with your life. I think all of us chose, with his blessing, to be able to do that.”

McHugh has expressed his excitement to be with the Braves, for whom he’s rooted for his entire life. His family and friends are all happy his journey has come full circle.

These days, the waves of grief arrive and pass for McHugh. He’s sure he’ll feel them at some point this season.

When he does, he’ll simply let them pass.

“That’s all you can do is just acknowledge it, be aware of it and let it go when it’s ready to go,” he said.