Many sports writers in the Colorado area will take to their keyboards today and write about Todd Helton’s final game at Coors Field. They’ll search for the perfect words to describe Helton’s home run in the bottom of the second last night. The home run Helton was destined to hit when he started playing for the Colorado Rockies 17 seasons ago. No matter how talented and versed the writer, any words they concoct will not embody Todd Helton’s career and what he means to the Colorado Rockies.
Out of respect and humility for Helton, I won’t search for those words. Instead, I will do what Sportscenter won’t. While ESPN catches every second of the “Exit Sandman” campaign in the Bronx; as they rummage through every documented pitch Mariano Rivera has thrown to cut up the “Top 10 Sandman Moments” montage that is sure to flood all ESPN programming, Todd Helton will quietly step away from the game of baseball. So I bring to you, some of my best memories of Todd Helton, and encourage you to share your favorite Todd Helton memory in the comments below, and with any baseball enthusiast you know.
Helton’s Debut: August 2, 1997. I was only a kid when Todd Helton first appeared in a Rockies uniform 17 years ago. And at the time I was eagerly awaiting the return of Maize and Blue Football. But Helton, clean shaven and baby-faced, would hit his first career home run. I remember watching the highlight years ago, and with the advantage of having seeing Helton’s career unfold, it became one of my favorite Todd Helton memories. I love a story that starts out with a bang, and to me a Major League career that begins with a trip around the bases is about as sweet as it gets. After all it was his first homer that would be the gateway to 369 career dingers (as of today).
Walk-off during Rock-tober: 2007. Do you remember where you were in 2007 when the Rockies went on their historic run? A run that put the Rockies on the Major League Baseball map again, and captured the sports world’s attention for six weeks. In a run filled with memories, my favorite was Todd Helton’s helmet toss and exuberant smile as he rounded third after hitting a walk-off homer to keep the Rockies playoff hopes alive. Coors Field was a madhouse. The Rockies would march through the postseason before falling to the Red Sox. That fall will forever live in baseball lore, and one of its biggest moments, and fittingly I might add, came off the bat of Todd Helton.
Coors Field Finale: September 25, 2013. There is something about sports that no other theatre can capture. And in a time where baseball is suffering from the faces of Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, it is always good to see the baseball gods reward one of the good guys. Last night, Denver had the chance to appropriately bid farewell to the best player in franchise history.
In the bottom of the second, Helton blasted a ball into right field. The ruckus that ensued gave many goose bumps. As all of Coors Field awaited Helton’s curtain call, looking around, it set in that the Colorado Rockies would never be the same. It was at that moment we all captured a fraction of what Helton means to the Rockies organization.
Todd Helton’s game was an extension of himself, as it seems to be with all greats. Quiet, concerted, and consistent, he has become the face of the Colorado Rockies and one of the most unheralded players in baseball. Ask those who appreciate baseball, like Jayson Stark, and they’ll quickly remind you just how great of a player Helton is.
As number seventeen rides off into the sunset, he leaves more than just a hole at first base. There will be a missing part of the game. Thanks Todd Helton.