By Dave Bruning
My second favorite baseball player of all-time is retiring. Todd Helton, the greatest player in the history of the Colorado Rockies, has decided to hang up his spikes after a 17-year MLB career. The Rockies just began their final home stand of the year, and thus, the final home games of Helton’s career. It is an appropriate time to pay respect to the Toddfather!
Helton announced his retirement the same way he has played his entire career; with respect for the game of baseball and little fanfare. He has played his entire career in the anonymity of the Rockies and wouldn’t have it any other way. Helton put it best at his retirement press conference:
“It’s been an honor to be your first basemen.”
Helton was drafted 8th overall by the Rockies in 1995. He played his college baseball at the University of Tennessee, and actually started at quarterback in front of Peyton Manning. Helton and Manning remain close friends to this day.
The Rockies considered using Helton in the outfield because of the presence of Andres Galarraga. However, he quickly settled in at first base, and the rest, as they say, is Rockies history. It would take me 3 full blogs to cover his career stats. In brief, Helton sports a .317 career batting average, a.415 on-base percentage, 2505 career hits, 367 home runs and 586 doubles (16th all-time in MLB history). He has also been a gold glove first basemen from the moment he walked on a baseball diamond. There is no doubt in my mind he is a Hall of Famer.
Helton’s career stats would be even more impressive had he not battled chronic back issues. This is the same ailment that derailed my favorite player’s career, Don Mattingly. The two are cut from the same cloth and played the great game of baseball the way it should be played.
Helton is renowned for his gritty play and loyalty to the Rockies. He had numerous opportunities to request a trade when the Rockies were a struggling franchise. He always stated his desire to stay and see success in Colorado. This desire was rewarded in 2007 with the Rockies first World Series appearance.
Two of my favorite Colorado sports moments occurred during this miraculous run. The first was Helton giddily dancing across the infield after the Rockies clinched an opportunity to play San Diego in the 1-game wild card playoff. The second is Helton thrusting his arms skyward with Eric Byrnes draped around his feet after recording the final out to clinch the trip to the World Series. The iconic moment was captured in the newspaper and shares the same prestige as Elway hoisting the Super Bowl trophy and Joe Sakic after he scored the double overtime goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in game 4 on the Avs march to the Stanley Cup.
My family and I will travel to Coors Field this Sunday to watch Helton play one more time. I want to share my passion and respect for Helton with my daughter. I urge everybody to do the same. Great players like Todd Helton do not come along very often. Final respect from Cooperstown is down the road. This is your chance to honor and appreciate the Toddfather.