Last night’s 15-inning marathon was more than just an exciting win for the Colorado Rockies. It was the perfect display of where the franchise has been and where it is going. And for Todd Helton, it was one he’ll remember forever.
September baseball is a unique stage. Its beauty lies in its differences. Sure the game is still nine innings, or it’s supposed to be. There’s the same teams and the same players, but that’s where its similarities end. As the autumn air sweeps the country, baseball games undergo a change similar to those of the leaves.
Last night, September baseball was in full effect in Denver. The Rockies weren’t vying for a playoff spot, and yet the game had playoff feel. And in the way that only sports can, the drama couldn’t have been scripted any better.
The best of Todd Helton was on display. Helton, the Rockies legend, pulled a veteran play early in the game; he faked the return throw after an attempted pickoff and Helton tagged out the runner. It was a play many young ballplayers consider, but only seasoned vets can pull off so smoothly. Helton’s fielding range fading, utilized his experience to get his pitcher an out. He pulled out all the stops.
Then he put a charge into Coors Field with a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The home run that every kid dreams of hitting manifested near the end of a 17-year career. Watching Helton round the bases, he looked like a kid again. For those few seconds we weren’t watching the greatest player in franchise history take one of his last trips around the bases. No, we were privileged to get a flashback of a younger Helton. Enthusiastic, passionate, and energized. Ask Helton ten years from now his favorite memories, and despite the hundreds he’s made throughout his career, last night’s game will be near the top of his list.
Fifteen innings of baseball is the most unique of dramas. In baseball extra innings are filled with spurts and rallies. Teams will get runners into scoring position with no outs, only to leave the run unfulfilled. Other times they will match run for run pushing the game even further into the night. Last night came to an end thanks to Corey Dickerson and his walk-off triple. Dickerson, who is getting time at the Major League level, has been a bright spot in a somewhat dismal Rockies season. Making the most of his opportunity, Dickerson played hero.
Corey Dickerson and Helton; heroes of last night’s game and at opposite ends of their careers. One a rookie who made a memory that “is great for all of us”, said Dickerson; the other a participant in 17 seasons worth of baseball winding down his career with what will always be one of his favorite memories. For the Rockies, Dickerson is proving to be a solid ballplayer and one they need to consider bringing up full-time for 2014. The rookie has proven himself.
As for Todd Helton, he’ll be emptying his locker for the last time. Maybe it’s the movies I’ve seen, but I can see Helton sitting in a quiet Rockies clubhouse; everyone else gone, off to enjoy their offseason and begin preparing for 2014. Helton, with no 2014 ahead of him, surrounded in silence will fight a tear. He’ll fight time, trying to savor his last seconds as a player in that clubhouse. Then with a deep breath, he’ll quietly slip out of Coors Field. I just hope that as he does, a smile will crawl out of that goatee. A smile generated from reliving nights like last night in his mind.