|Todd Helton's retirement shows how special he really is.|
Todd Helton, at 40 years old and more money than he could ever know what to do with, wants to stay home and spend time watching his two girls grow up.
As baseball fans, we think of these guys as multi-millionaires who get to stay in the fanciest hotels in the greatest cities in America. We think that they only have to work seven months of the year and that they are living the dream.
However, any dad who has headed off to work with their kid begging them to stay home should understand. Instead of an eight hour day, Helton has to kiss his daughters goodbye for six to 10 days. People always say that kids grow up so fast, and it isn't reality until you have your own kids. It makes baseball pretty meaningless.
Helton still loves the game, but he knew it was time to move on to more important things. "I shed a tear on the way into the park tonight," Helton said before the game. "I like to do that beforehand to get it over with and play the game."
For a guy like Helton, who clearly loves the game, who clearly wants to be the best, who admittedly rarely smiles on the field because he is hard at work, it seems that reality hit.
Growing up, Helton probably never believed that he would love anything more than he loves baseball. It was the only thing that he ever dreamed about and worked towards.
Many kids in America and around the world grow up with that same dream. Helton was both fortunate and driven enough to not only make it to the big leagues, but be one of the best 100 players to ever wear a uniform. He never won a World Series, and was never voted MVP, but there was little else for Helton to accomplish.
It seems that a guy like Helton, who wants to be the best at everything he does, realized that baseball was in the way of something that was far more important than the dream that he grew up with. Being a great father and a great husband was more important than anything else on the baseball field.
It must be part of growing up. Initially it feels like the loss of a dream, but the reality is, those dreams are meant to fade away. Watching a child grow up is something that means far more than baseball. Actively taking part in it brings back far greater rewards.
Helton is on to new dreams. The fact that he values his family more than pursuing records that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things should only add to his legacy.
The send-off for Helton was nothing short of spectacular. The Rockies had a pregame ceremony in his honor with Helton's family in attendance. Brad Hawpe and Aaron Cook also stood on the warning track. The pregame was spectacular, but the tributes throughout the game left little doubt about the impact that No.17 has had on the entire state of Colorado.
The night was complete when both of Helton's daughters were sent out to greet him at first base in the top of the 9th inning. Tierney, Helton's eldest daugher, hugged her dad, stole first base and ran off of the field. It was a classic moment.
"When I saw my daughters out there is the moment when I came the closest to losing my composure," Helton said. "Seeing them run on the field was special."
As has been the story of Todd Helton's fabulous career, he did something that left fans in awe. On a 1-1 pitch from Jake Peavy leading off the 2nd inning, Helton drilled a ball deep into the right field stands, above the out-of-town scoreboard. It was the 369th time that Helton has trotted around the bases in his big league career.
After a sacrifice fly in his next at-bat, Helton returned to the plate and nearly made it 370 career home runs, coming about one foot shy of clearly the fence in left field. Helton was on his horse, not literally, and slid face first into second base for an all-too-familiar double.
The game ended, and as the Rockies traditionally do after their final home game, they circled the warning track thanking their fans for supporting them. This time was slightly different, however, as the rest of the Rockies allowed Helton to go in front of them, allowing fans from every corner of the park to honor Helton up close and personally.
Helton was honored properly in his Coors Field swan song. The Rockies did it right. The message that came through loud and clear was an aspect of Todd Helton that many fans didn't ever get a chance to see. He is a man who is intent on being a good father. His family is far more important to him than the game he grew up loving and excelling at.
In a society that values the numbers put up in a career, whether that is a career in the spotlight, or a career in a blue-collar environment, there are still husbands and fathers out there who know how much more important it is to raise a family properly than to achieve career goals.
For that alone, Helton deserves another standing ovation.
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