It was raw, emotional and incredible.
With his towering No. 17 shaved in the grass in center field and painted in purple along the first- and third-base lines, the best player in franchise history provided a memorable bookend to a Hall of Fame career. It was a beautiful snapshot, one that will remind everyone at altitude just what a special talent he or she has been privileged to watch for nearly two decades.
Of course, the Rockies also lost the game.
Such has been life for the bedrock of the perpetually scorched earth that is the Colorado Rockies for the past 17 years.
Since Helton's debut as fresh-faced 23-year-old in 1997, the Colorado Rockies have a winning percentage just a shade under .470. The franchise has never won a division championship, and during Helton's tenure his team made the postseason just twice.
In fairness, that does include a ridiculous and unprecedented winning streak in 2007 that ferried the team all the way to the World Series.
For the most part, though, Helton has been the scraggly, bearded face behind a team that struggles to win half of its games, season in and season out.
Throughout his career, Helton's dedication and commitment to excellence have stood in blaring contrast to that of the team's ownership. Unwilling to spend money to build a contender, the franchise has been committed to building one from the ground up, hoping that the kind of lightning that fueled 2007 can strike twice. As Helton knows better than perhaps anyone, it won't.
For the future stars of the team, his career should serve as a cautionary tale. Baseball in Colorado offers the chance to be revered for your individual greatness, but never really play on a great team. And until ownership finally deviates from what is clearly an unsuccessful philosophy, that's not going to change.
Helton will officially leave the game Sunday as the Rockies' all-time leader in hits, runs, doubles, home runs and RBIs, and a five-time All-Star with three Gold Gloves.
Pundits will debate Helton's credentials for the Hall of Fame, weighing his home and road splits, asking how much playing in Coors Field helped his career.
If you ask me, it didn't do him any favors.
Chris Cobb is a journalist and freelance writer. He has previously written for The Herald-Zeitung and The Brownsville Herald, and has twice been named as Star Reporter of the Year by the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors.
- Sports & Recreation
- Todd Helton
- Colorado Rockies
- Coors Field