Helton ready to leave game after 17 seasons

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 16, 2013
Todd Helton has more homers than Hank Greenberg, more RBIs than Johnny Mize, a higher career batting average than Eddie Murray and has scored more runs than Willie McCovey. All those first basemen are in the Hall of Fame. Helton will find out in five years if he's done enough over his 17-year career with the Colorado Rockies to merit consideration. The 40-year-old Helton, who announced his retirement over the weekend, holds virtually every offensive record for the Rockies, the only club he's ever known. But he remains on the bubble for the Hall of Fame, mainly because he spent his career playing half his games in the friendly confines of Coors Field. Asked about his enshrinement possibility at his official retirement ceremony before the game Monday against the St. Louis Cardinals, Helton quickly tabled such talk. ''Obviously, it's an honor to be mentioned in that conversation,'' Helton said. ''But that's for a later date.'' His numbers, though, do some pretty loud speaking. He's a .317 hitter in his career with 367 home runs, 1,397 RBIs and 1,394 runs. He was an All-Star from 2000 to 2004 and captured three Gold Glove awards. ''He's a Hall of Famer, no matter what people say,'' Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. ''He put up great numbers and he didn't play all his games in Coors Field. That (argument) frustrates me, because we don't have control over that. ''He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He's a great player and that's where the great players go.'' The days of grabbing his glove and sauntering out to first base are quickly dwindling for Helton. After Monday, just 11 more contests remain in Helton's illustrious career. The normally stoic Helton allowed his emotions to surface as he addressed a crowded room, a rare peek into his personality. His wife and two kids were by his side at the table. Troy Tulowitzki and a few other Colorado players were listening in the audience. Even former Rockies slugger Matt Holliday, who's now a member of the Cardinals, showed up and took a seat next to Tulowitzki. ''I'm going to miss walking out of the tunnel at night ... trying to figure out how I'm going to get a hit the next day or how we're going to win a game the next day,'' Helton said, pausing for a moment to gather his emotions. ''To me, that's going to be the hardest (part). ''My relationship with the game is going to come to an end. The relationships I made in the game will carry on. To me, that is what is important.'' Even with his time in purple pinstripes growing short, Helton remained focused on going deep. ''I'd like to hit about 40 more homers,'' Helton said, grinning through his bushy goatee. That would definitely pad his resume. Not that it needs any help, at least in the opinion of Holliday. Helton found the holes inside spacious Coors Field before the humidor was introduced a decade ago, and after its arrival, too. He hit .345 with 225 homers at home and .287 with 142 on the road. Of his 586 career doubles - which rank 16th all-time - 315 were at home. ''He's an elite player for a long time,'' Holliday said. ''That's what qualifies you for the Hall of Fame.'' Earlier this month, Helton became the 96th player in major league history to reach the 2,500-hit milestone. He joins Hall of Famer Stan Musial as the only players in major league history with at least 2,500 hits, 550 doubles, 350 home runs and a .310 or higher career batting average. Over the past few seasons, though, Helton has been bothered by back and hip trouble. He hit a career-low .238 in 2012. Still, his struggles at the plate didn't spill over to the field. He has a career fielding percentage of .996, which is among the all-time best for a first baseman. ''I love his competitiveness,'' Vinny Castilla said. ''He just hates to lose.'' This season, Helton has helped mentor Nolan Arenado, the slick-fielding third baseman who isn't afraid to unleash throws from any angle knowing that Helton will likely dig it out of the dirt. ''For him not to be there anymore, it's pretty crazy to think about,'' Arenado said. ''He's someone I'm always going to idolize.''
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