|Rockies fans should give Todd Helton the ovation he deserves.|
Todd Helton, the grizzly veteran who leads the Rockies in every offensive category--save triples--showed that he isn't done quite yet. On Friday night against a Cincinnati Reds team in desperate need of a few wins in town, Helton basically ensured that the Reds would be in for a fight this weekend.
The first baseman launched a no-doubt, 3-run home run deep into the Rockies bullpen in right-center field in the 4th inning with two men on. The bomb broke a 1-1 tie and gave Jorge De La Rosa, the Rockies starter, some wiggle room.
Helton drilled a 1-0 change-up from Bronson Arroyo with a vintage Helton swing. There was no doubt about the result.
In the 7th inning, Helton rendered the game over, making a 6-3 lead a 9-3 lead with his second 3-run homer of the game. This time he tomahawked a pitch from Logan Ondrusek, who watched a 92-MPH fastball saile over the out of town scoreboard in right field.
Helton's two home runs put him one hit shy of 2,500 for his career. With the milestone within reach, the greatest Rockie of all time has a chance to get showered with cheers from his hometown crowd when the hit comes.
It has been a long road for Helton with these Rockies. There have been some bright moments for the club as a whole, but for many years there simply wasn't much to cheer about. When guys like Brent, not Brett, Butler, Brooks Kieschnick, Angel Echevarria, Chris Stynes and Kit Pellow were taking at-bats in the Rockies lineup, Helton was creating smiles for Rockies fans.
The lefty first baseman has played the majority of his career in obscurity. In his 17-year career, the reality is, his team had a chance to make the playoffs about five times before the season started. They made it twice, the failed in the other three chances. What that means is that for 12 years Helton played top shelf baseball for a team serving boxed wine talent to their fans.
For years, Rockies fans watched in amazement as Helton carved top-flight pitchers apart. He would take an 0-2 count, turn it into a 1-2 count, then 2-2 count, then he would foul off pitch after pitch after pitch. He would slice a slider into the seats down the left field line, then a fastball, then a change up, then a fastball again. The funny part about those at-bats is that Rockies fans watching at the park or on TV would watch with a chuckle, knowing that the battle wouldn't finish well for the pitcher. Most likely, the at-bat would finish with an opposite field single, blooped in front of the left fielder.
The reality is, it probably wasn't just the fans who knew what the at-bat would result in, the guy on the mound probably had a pretty good idea that Helton would win the battle.
A fabulous career was ignored by many fans in Denver because the Rockies were so bad. A football town doesn't need much failure to start focusing on training camp. While Dove Valley stole the spotlight, Helton continued to hit. Helton was building career numbers that would end up being better than all but about 100 players to swing a bat at the Major League level and many sports fans in Denver didn't have any clue what he was doing. Fans around the country didn't see him on highlight shows because of the Rockies record, and when they did, they discounted his accomplishments because of Coors Field.
When the Rockies finally gained respectability, Helton was dealing with back issues that sapped his power, and the typical decline that comes with the mid-30's. The Rockies were starting to get good, but Helton wasn't the best player anymore. Guys like Matt Holliday and Troy Tulowitzki had become the young studs everyone was watching.
With the Rockies 2013 season all but certainly being meaningless, it should be time to celebrate Helton. Many fans never saw the glory days of their first baseman, so their remarks about him are only negative. They complain about his lack of power and his lack of ability to play everyday. They comment on his bloated contract, which hasn't been at the level they seem to always suggest for two years.
Those fans have had plenty of reasons to complain. However, the fans that watched Helton in his prime give the guy a pass because they know how good he was. They have such fond memories of how good he was that they are willing to accept a decline in stats to keep their legend around.
For the final month, it is time for the fans who don't appreciate what Helton has done to be quiet. They can sit back and quietly watch. For the fans who have enjoyed who Helton was, and still shows he can be on occasion, should take in his final month. Watch each at-bat with a little more concentration. There are only a handful of at-bats remaining for the guy who parents and grandparents will be telling their children and grandchildren that they got to watch Helton play in-person.
Fans at Coors Field lucky enough to witness the 2,500th hit should make sure the moment is appreciated. They should make sure that the scoreboard doesn't have to persuade a standing ovation. The cheer that Helton receives shouldn't be one that allows the game to continue on before a curtain call--or two curtain calls--from Helton.
When the 2,500 hit happens, Rockies fans should be cheer so loud and so long that the sheepish Helton has to blush with embarrassment when he has to take off his cap and accept the cheers. The ovation should be so long that the next pitch is delayed by at least one minute.
The final month of the season will also be the final month of Todd Helton's storied Rockies career. It is time for fans of the purple pinstripes to show him how much they appreciate what he has done in his time in Colorado.
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