Sunday, August 17, 2014

It was a great day to be a fan of the Colorado Rockies

Todd Helton overshadowed a great day for the Rockies.
Todd Helton showed up at Coors Field, and apparently dropped off some of his bats.

In what will go down as one of the best days in the 2014 season, but also one of the best days in Colorado Rockies fans memory, Helton's number was retired in a moving pregame ceremony, then the Rockies won two games in dramatic fashion.

Unfortunately for Drew Stubbs, his walk-off three-run home run to cap a five run 9th inning come-from-behind win got overshadowed by both Helton, and Michael Cuddyer, who returned from two months on the disabled list and promptly hit for the cycle in game two of the day-night doubleheader.

Stubbs capped a crazy rally that started in the 9th inning when fans had basically written off game one as a loss. With Reds closer Aroldis Chapman in the game with a four run lead, there wasn't much to be hopeful about. However, Chapman, the proud owner of a fastball that is consistently over 100 MPH, couldn't find the strike zone. He walked four consecutive Rockies batters before being removed.

After a sacrifice fly and a fly out, the Rockies, even with two-on, looked like they were out of luck. However, Drew Stubbs had a different idea. On the second pitch, the second curveball, Stubbs drilled a pitch to deep left-center field. It was hit hard, but even in Coors Field, it is tough to get a ball over the wall in that direction. However, it kept traveling, and the Rockies had completed the comeback.

With a win in the books, would there have been a Rockies fan who wasn't happy with their Sunday? Well, apparently the Rockies weren't satisfied.

Two runs had already come across the plate on Corey Dickerson's double in the bottom of the 8th inning. Those runs broke a 5-5 tie that the Rockies had scratched out in the previous inning. With Dickerson at second base and Cuddyer just a double shy of the cycle, Cuddyer hit a 1-1 pitch from Manny Parra down the left field line and cruised into second base with a double and his cycle.

Not only had Cuddyer accomplished writing his name into the Rockies history books, he had helped the Rockies to an incredibly unexpected doubleheader sweep of the Reds.

The wins were a reminder of how much fun it is to watch a team play well. It was a reminder of what makes it fun to be a baseball fan. The excitement of coming from behind to steal an improbable win after trailing for much of a game.

It was the type of excitement that cynical Rockies fans have been longing for. It is the type of baseball that fans long for, and believe should be a far more common part of the brand of baseball that they pay to watch.

While the games were fun, both Cuddyer and Stubbs were overshadowed by a man whose numbers overshadow everyone else who has ever worn purple pinstripes.

The pregame ceremony to honor Todd Helton was done perfectly. It was well-planned and honored the greatest player in team history. Between stories from Brad Hawpe and Matt Belisle, mixed in with some razzing from his eldest daughter, Tierney, Helton, the man, was well celebrated. His numbers speaking for themselves, much of the focus of the ceremony was on the type of person that Helton is, not the player that he was.

Both Hawpe and Belisle focused strongly on Helton's overwhelming desire to be the best at what he did. They both reflected on his work ethic and his quiet leadership. They both talked about him as a guy who was a mentor to them and showed them, and the rest of the teams that he played on, how to work hard and play the game the right way.

In a season full of criticism, the Rockies did everything right with Helton. The ceremony was done extremely well and Helton was honored for what he accomplished.

While some franchises have history that dates back more than 100 years, one of the fun things for Rockies fans, even in the midst of some serious baseball struggles, is that they are a part of history. Rockies fans of today get to witness this franchise mature and grow up. Plenty of fans watched the Rockies run out a bunch of cast-offs and has-beens in 1993, then watched them make the playoffs in 1995, go to the World Series in 2007 and now watched their first home-grown player see his number retired.

Rockies fans get to lay claim on being there from the beginning. When Dodgers, Cubs, Yankees, Red Sox, Cardinals and Phillies fans talk about the beauty of being a fan of a team that was cheered for by four generations before them, Rockies fans get to lay claim on being the first generation fans. They get to be the ones who tell their kids about Todd Helton and the first legends that wore the uniform.

Sunday was a great day for the Rockies on the field, but the history and significance of Todd Helton having his number retired is something that will live in the memories of Rockies fans for the rest of their lives.

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