Because the greatest Rockies of all time, Todd Helton, is stoic and soft spoken, we are used to him underreacting to moments that seem huge to everybody else. As we attempt to interpret his disposition from afar, either from the stands or on televisions, we can still pick up hints to which moments matter in Helton’s eyes. I was fortunate enough to attend the game when he knocked his 600th career double. The game stopped for a moment as we gave him a standing ovation. Seeming to be partly annoyed and partly sheepish, Helton obliged and tipped his helmet to acknowledge the moment. From my perspective, the thought bubble over his head would have said: “Enough already. We’ve got a game to play.”
When Helton does react, it is always a sign to me that the moment really matters. Seeing him fired up and showing emotions has provided some of my favorite memories as a Rockies fan.
Helton’s walk-off home run against Takashi Saito in 2007 was a message to the rest of the league that the Rockies were not dead in the playoff race. He threw his helmet off and hollered, with his long and crazy hair behind him, in a display of excitement we had never seen from him. In that same stretch, we were treated to two of the most memorable images in the franchise’s young history thanks to Helton: hopping up and down like a little kid after they forced game 163, and with his arms over his head (with Eric Byrnes with his face in the dirt behind him) when they clinched their first ever National League pennant.
On this past Friday night, Todd Helton clapped his hands emphatically as he pulled into second on his decisive RBI double. This early in the season, that’s a demonstrative celebration from the Toddfather.
Last night, in the miserable rain in front of a handful of loyal fans, Helton stole a game from the Arizona Diamondbacks with a walk-off home run. I figured he would cautiously duck into his giddy teammates, as if to say, “It’s cold, I’m old…let’s just get this celebration over with and go home.” Instead he flung himself (relatively speaking) into the pile with a full head of steam, seemingly allowing himself to enjoy the moment.
As before, Helton’s willingness to show emotions coincides with an understanding of the significance of the moment.
These games matter. The team needed to fend off a bad start and start restoring their dominance at Coors Field. They needed a good start in the division. Helton’s home run was huge, and it looked like he knew it.