Sunday, September 29, 2013

Los Angeles Dodgers give Todd Helton a classy send off as Colorado Rockies win finale

Goodbye, Todd Helton. Thank you.
Who better to send a legend into retirement than Vin Scully?

The Dodgers long-time broadcaster started Sunday off with a rousing tribute to Todd Helton, the Colorado Rockies first legend. The broadcaster, who has a voice of silk and a baseball encyclopedia in his mind, filmed a tribute to Helton that was played before the first pitch. It wished him well and told him that Dodgers pitchers certainly won't miss him "mistreating" them.

Dodgers fans stood and gave Helton a long standing ovation. These are the same fans who routinely boo former Dodgers, whether they were traded or signed elsewhere via free agency. Helton tipped his cap to the fans at Dodger Stadium and went about his business.

Unprovoked, those same fans stood to their feet and cheered as Helton walked to the plate in the 9th inning for the final bat in his career. There was no video beforehand, there was no announcement from the loudspeakers, Dodger fans knew the situation and gave the Rockies legend his due.

As tear-jerking as the Rockies send off on Wednesday was, the tribute from Scully and the fans appreciation may have gone further to acknowledge just how good Helton's career really was. It is easy for fans who watched Helton play every single day and followed his career to see how good he was, but when opposing teams fans who were victimized by Helton realize that greatness is retiring stand in appreciation, it is worth an unlimited number of words.

The Helton retirement tour lasted two weeks. He was serenaded with standing ovations in nearly all of his at-bats. It was probably something that he was incredibly uncomfortable with. His brilliant career was largely played in obscurity. The amount of attention he received in two weeks may have equated to double the number of standing ovations that he received in his entire career.

After 17 years, it is going to be strange to see someone else manning first base at Coors Field for the Rockies on Opening Day. In 21 seasons, the Rockies have had only two men start at first base on Opening Day.

Watching Helton walk away from the game comes with a lump in the throat. Much like a family dog that gets old, things weren't the same for Helton for years. He hadn't played at the level that he had performed at early in his career. However, the memories were there, and there was no reason for the Rockies to move on. He still could field better than any first baseman in the game and he still knew how to grind out an at-bat. As the years moved on, those at-bats started to end in the pitchers favor more often than they used to, but there were still flashes of brilliance.

With the old family dog, it isn't easy to realize that it is time to move on. Deep down, the truth is evident. It is time to let the dog move on. The memories won't go away, and there is no real way to give that dog the proper thank you's for sticking around through the tough times and being there for the laughs. Putting that dog down comes with tears, but it is done knowing that it was the right time.

The memories of Helton won't go away. They will be re-lived and embellished for the next generations to come. Whether Cooperstown calls Helton's name or not, the mark that he left on fledgling baseball fans in Colorado isn't going to be forgotten.

Rockies fans were able to send Todd Helton off in style, thanking him for his contributions to the region, for teaching many about how the game is played. If Helton didn't know how much this state appreciated him before, he certainly does now. Helton will be missed dearly by Rockies fans, there is no way around it, but the time has come for both Helton and the franchise to move to the next chapter and discover who they both are without each other.

For Helton, one more round of applause is deserved. His career was nothing short of phenomenal.

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1 comment:

  1. I am glad Todd had a taste of a World Series during his career. It is unfortunate he gave all he had while it appeared the Rockies organization did not do the same. Todd will be missed but it would have been nice to see him win a title with another organization that makes winning championships a priority, a la Ray Bourque. The only difference next year will be the Rockies sitting at the bottom of the NL West with no #17 in the lineup.