Helton hangs up his cleats

Todd Helton accomplished something special this week.

No, not the home run he smacked in his first at-bat in his final home game with the Colorado Rockies, although that was a fitting way to give the home-town crowd one more opportunity to cheer his great career.

More importantly, he completed his 17-year career with the same team he joined as a rookie. That is a rare occurrence in this age of free agency and me-first, money-chasing athletes.

And it wasn’t as if he was some back-bencher who just hung around the dugout for 17 years. He had a great career and likely could have taken his talents to nearly any other team if he had chosen to do so. He has a lifetime batting average over .300, had hit 369 home runs as of Wednesday night, accumulated more than 2,500 hits and won three Gold Glove awards. And he was the leader of the Rockies’ only World Series team in 2007.

On top of that, he is a genuinely nice guy, always helping younger members of the team and friendly to the fans. There is little of the giant ego that afflicts so many star athletes.

Helton owns a ranch in eastern Colorado and has business interests in the Western Slope. So, he won’t be abandoning Colorado upon retiring. But long-suffering Colorado baseball fans will definitely miss No. 17 in the Rockies’ lineup.

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