Sunday, September 1, 2013

Todd Helton reaches 2,500 hit milestone, as fans cheer appropriately

Todd Helton appropriately hit a double for hit 2,500.
Congratulations Colorado Rockies fans, you did it the right way.

When Todd Helton sliced a ball down the left field line in the 7th inning, then lumbered into second base, sliding in for a double, appropriately logging his 2,500th hit as a double, the crowd let Helton know how much they appreciate his great career in a Rockies uniform.

Perfectly, the double lifted Helton to 17th on the all-time doubles list, one ahead of Robin Yount. With 584 career doubles, many of which came on hits to the opposite field, it was the perfect way for Helton to notch the big hit.

As predictable as possible, Helton tried to end the serenade from the crowd. He doffed his helmet from second base as quickly as the cheering began. Helton doesn't like the limelight, but it's time he gets used to letting the fans show him how much he is appreciated. For 17 years, Helton has quietly led the Rockies. He has gone about his business asking nothing in return. He shows up to the ballpark and for years inserted his name into the starting lineup when his manager had given him a day off. With a hurt back, Helton has had to succumb to limited playing time. While his name wasn't in the lineup, a quote of Helton complaining about how much it hurt to play doesn't exist.

With a bat that has slowed as he went from 30 to 35 to 40, Helton packed his lunch pale and never left his glove at home. Fascinated with Colorado, he became a resident and has said that he will die living in the state. Quietly, Helton gives money to charity. It doesn't get publicized and it isn't something that he will talk about. When the Aurora theater shooting happened, Helton was among the Rockies visiting victims. He is a part of the community.

Helton had chances to get out of Colorado. He had his chance to say that he was more interested in being a part of a team that demanded to win. As a fierce competitor, losing bothered Helton. In a pregame interview in late 2006, Helton was asked if he was happy with the progress his team had made after being very bad in 2005. His response was clear. Anything less than the playoffs was a failure. On a team that was consistently failing, Helton stuck around.

Much of the reason that Helton stayed in Colorado was the same reason that so many people come to Colorado and decide never to leave. He loves the culture that exists in this great state, and he embraced it. It became important to him and he became a contributor to the community.

Fans in Colorado are a loyal bunch. There are many examples of fan loyalty, from ticket sales, to certain players that fans latch onto. When a player shows that same loyalty back, it only helps fans fall in love even more. When a player of Helton's ilk was impressed enough with Colorado to stick around through the rough years, even as his career waned, it humbled fans.

Helton may have wanted to get the cheers over with. He may have wanted to avoid the emotions that come from being in the spotlight. He has done that over the course of his entire career. However, on Sunday, with Helton's career entering it's final month, fans weren't just cheering for a monumental milestone hit. Fans were cheering because it is their only way to say thank you to Helton for the memories that he has provided for them.

The fans got their wish, and by the look on Helton's face it was clear that the message was received. The man who shows very little emotion was clearly moved by the length and volume of the ovation. As Helton's career rounds third base and heads for home plate, the first baseman may have to endure more ovations before it is all said and done. Rockies fans with very little to cheer for as far as the standings go get a chance to defy Helton's wish for a quiet exit. They get a chance to shower Helton with a giant "thank you" for the final month of the season.

It is the fan's job to let Helton know how much they appreciate not only a phenomenal career in Colorado, one that may be Hall of Fame worthy, but how much they appreciate the loyalty that he has shown the fans that suffered through bad seasons with him.

On Sunday, the Coors Field faithful did it right. They didn't give a golf clap. They didn't give a quick standing ovation. They forced Helton to listen to the applause. They did it right. That is what being a fan is all about.

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