It isn’t everyday the man nicknamed Mr. Rockie comes back to his old stomping grounds to make an appearance. It’s not even every year.
Todd Helton’s name is atop so many of the Colorado Rockies’ leaderboards and his resume is well understood by fans in the Rocky Mountain region. Most games played, most home runs, base hits and on and on the list goes. Only three players — Charlie Blackmon, Carlos González and Larry Walker — have even appeared in half as many games for the Rockies as Helton.
On Saturday, he was back to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the organization that brought professional baseball to Denver and helped bring some good luck during an 11-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
“It brings back a lot of good memories. Not only to be in Coors Field, but in the state of Colorado,” Helton said of his return. “I miss the weather, I miss the people. It’s a good place to call home and get back in the field, good to see the guys out there playing. Makes me miss it a little bit more.”
Since the start of the 2022 season, Helton has served as a special assistant to the GM with a focus on working with minor league players. The 50-year-old relishes his role working with the future of the franchise.
“I enjoy going around the minor leagues and seeing those guys, talking to them and helping them anyway I can,” he said. “I give them my phone number to call me. If something’s not right and they want to talk about approach or anything, they have my number, they can call.”
Despite his enjoyment as a roving instructor, Helton doesn’t have interest in becoming a full-time coach. His oldest daughter has followed in his footsteps at Tennessee University and, ultimately, the drive to be a day-to-day educator for players is less than what he feels is required. For Helton, Clint Hurdle was that embodiment of an influential coach with the energy to make an impact, which is still true nearly 30 years later.
Always happy to have Helton at Coors 💜 pic.twitter.com/4CiNO2g4zL
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) August 20, 2023
“He was the minor league hitting instructor when I was in the minor leagues. So I got to work with him a lot and he makes a difference on everybody that he meets,” Helton shared. “Not only in baseball, but in the game of life.”
The five-time All-Star acknowledged his walk-off home run against Los Angeles Dodgers’ closer Takashi Saito in 2007 as being monumental during his career. It was a moment that not only sealed a doubleheader sweep on Sept 18, but helped spark 14 wins in the final 15 games of the season to send Colorado to the postseason.
Even still, his focus was on the farm system on a day that was about celebrating his career. “We got a lot of help coming,” he said of the prospects before adding, “There’s some good young hitters down there that are going to tear the big leagues up.”
Don't miss the series finale – tomorrow at 12:30 pm, only on AT&T SportsNet pic.twitter.com/htOmfLGtMN
— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM (@ATTSportsNetRM) August 20, 2023
Helton came just 11 votes shy of reaching 75% on the most recent ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bud Black, who managed against him during his time with the San Diego Padres, guaranteed this January would bring news of enshrinement. Kyle Freeland, a lifelong fan of the team as a Denver native, also recognized how the legendary career of no. 17 following his first pitching win since May 14.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t think about it because I do,” Helton said of reaching Cooperstown. “But it’s also something that I can’t control, so I don’t think about it much. If it happens, I’ll be blessed and grateful and every other adjective you could think of, but until then, I just go about my life.”
For the 46,601 in attendance — many of whom wore the commemorative Helton jersey they received at the ballpark — and the tens of thousands watching at home, the excitement of seeing the Toddfather back in Denver was wonderful.
Imagine how satisfying his next visit to Coors Field will be once he’s rightfully recognized in Cooperstown as a true Hall of Famer?