Todd Helton gave me my favorite sports moment.
I have been fortunate enough to see the Denver Broncos win two Super Bowls, to see a couple Stanley Cup championships from the Colorado Avalanche, and to see plenty of playoff appearances from the Denver Nuggets. Brutal though the Rockies’ history has been, I have seen them go to the playoffs three times.
The first time the Rockies reached the playoffs, I had the chance to attend a wild card game in person (and yell in dismay along with everybody else when Lance Painter strode up to the plate as a pinch hitter).
I fancy myself a pretty lucky sports fan, all things considered. Even with a lot of bad results from my absolute favorite team, the Colorado Rockies, my favorite memory as a sports fan still comes from them.
That is thanks to Todd Helton.
You might assume that such a memory would involve attending a game in person. That is not the case. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t even in the state of Colorado when this happened. I was by myself, in a campus security office, as a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota.
Like Rockies fans everywhere in 2007, I just wanted them to stay in the race. Not in my wildest dreams would I have expected something like Rocktober such as it happened that season. On that night, with Helton up, the Rockies down a run, and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning, I just wanted them to be relevant a bit longer.
You watch your favorite athlete a lot, especially if you are a baseball fan. You watch a lot of success and even more failure. You watch them in moments when they have the chance to be the hero. Sometimes it happens. Usually it doesn’t.
Hunched over a computer screen, sitting by myself, I badly wanted Todd Helton to be the hero that night.
When I saw Takashi Saito nod in agreement to the pitch called and then stare in at a target on the inside part of the plate, I muttered: “Better not go in there, Takashi.” For all the baseball games I have watched and will watch, I might never be that right again.
I pumped my fist like a maniac when that ball landed in the right field seats. I then sat in awe of the fact that Todd Helton was actually showing emotion. To see the otherwise stoic Helton so fired up, pointing in the air as he rounded first, pumping his fist, and flying into a mob of his teammates, made me crack up in the midst of my miniature celebration.
You fall in love with sports as a kid. Over the course of the rest of your time watching and enjoying sports, all you can hope for is a moment every now and then that brings you back to that joy you felt as a kid when you watched sports. You cherish those moments that remind you why you love these games in the first place.
For me, Todd Helton’s walk-off home run off Takashi Saito was one of those moments. All these years later, it remains my favorite.
Being a sports fan is supposed to be fun. It is simple but true. For this and for so many other fun moments, I want to say thanks to Todd Helton.
I’ll be there at Coors Field today for #Retire17 as one way to say thanks, and I’ll say it here.