We’ll just have to forget for the moment that the Colorado Rockies have become the laughingstock of the Major Leagues, what with their league-wide worst record and wildly incompetent owners and front office. Actually, it will be nice to forget — in order to remember Todd Helton.
He became the first Rocky to have his number (17) retired at a touching ceremony at Coors Field this week. This is perhaps the only good thing the Rockies’ owners have done in the past number of years. Helton was honored not just for his numbers: his .316 lifetime batting average, his sterling fielding and many other club records. He was honored for two other things.
First, his will to win. That is admirable on any team, but especially so on an expansion team that, with rare rays of sunshine, has performed poorly. One is reminded of Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, whose team has been even more consistently bad than the Rockies, and for a much longer time. Yet, Banks was a paragon of competitiveness and sportsmanship. The same for Todd Helton.
Second, Helton was honored for something even greater and rarer: his character, his integrity, his exemplary behavior as a son, a husband, a father and a community member — and, as a person who believed that doing the right thing is its own reward. Helton played through the entire era of steroids and scandal, yet he was never touched by it. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, for example, have better numbers than Todd Helton — fake numbers. These players will go down in the record book of shame. Helton, by contrast, is that ideal sportsman whom, in every way, kids can look up to.
Congratulations on the signal honor, Todd. You deserve it.
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