Baker looks back on Helton's impressive career
DENVER -- Todd Helton has purposely avoided the "farewell tours" other players of his stature have conducted during their final season, but he has unofficially maintained he is "99 percent" certain he will retire when his contract is up at the end of the season.
For Dusty Baker, who has managed against Helton for three teams over 17 years, it's the end of an era as one of the National League's most prolific hitters hangs up his spikes. Helton enters what could be his final game against Baker with a career .317 average, and he is one hit shy of 2,500. When he hits that milestone, he'll join Stan Musial as the only players in the history of the game with at least 2,500 hits, 550 doubles (583, 17th all-time), 350 homers, and a .310 average.
"My memory is he's very steady," Baker said, looking back at Helton's career from the visiting dugout. "One of the best first basemen around, quietly goes about his business, very little fanfare, no boasting, no hot-dogging, nothing. He just goes about his business.
"Probably people don't give him much credit, because he's played in Coors Field, but this guy can hit anywhere. This guy's shooting balls in the gap, he'll take you to left, and sometimes he'll take you to right. He just knows what he's doing."
Baker has vivid images of Helton's prowess at first base over the years, as he is a three time NL Gold Glove Award winner.
"I don't ever remember him not picking a ground ball on a throw," Baker said. "When the ball's thrown, everybody says, 'Boot it,' or something like that. [With Helton at first], I don't even say it anymore."
Helton took the Reds pitching staff to task in Friday's series opener, clouting two three-run homers to match a career-high 6 RBIs in a game, a feat he last accomplished 10 years earlier.
"I remember when he first came on the scene, everybody was talking about this young kid that could hit, but we all doubted at the time that he was taking Andres Galarraga's spot," Baker recalled. "Twenty years later he's still there."