Blackmon comes 'full-circle' on Todd Helton Night

August 20th, 2023

DENVER -- Most Rockies players know as a franchise legend. A few crossed paths with him last year when he rejoined the club in a role helping the organization’s Minor Leaguers.

, however, knew him as a teammate.

Blackmon debuted in 2011, and is the only current Rockies player to have shared the clubhouse with Helton. It was fitting that on a night that the Rockies honored Helton at Coors Field, Blackmon celebrated his old mentor with a home run during the Rockies’ 11-5 victory over the White Sox on Saturday night.

In ‘11, Blackmon was a clean-shaven player in one corner of the clubhouse. Now, in remodeled dressing quarters, he has moved to roughly the same lockering spot as Helton, then the graybeard.

“It’s not a really good comparison,” said Blackmon, who visited with Helton and his family before the game. “But I think of myself a lot like Todd in the sense that I’ve been lucky to be here for a long time. I was a young player and he was a veteran. Now I try to put myself in some of the younger guys’ shoes, like Todd was to me. So we’ve come full-circle.”

The contest featured a single, a double, a triple and four RBIs from Elehuris Montero, who spent the evening at Helton’s old position at first base. It also included five less-than-sharp but effective-enough innings from Denver native and childhood Helton fan Kyle Freeland, who earned his first win since May 14.

“He’s an icon, someone that I looked up to growing up, a legend of the game, a legend of the Colorado Rockies,” Freeland said.

The day was mostly about rolling out the carpet for Helton, who spent all 17 seasons with the Rockies, has his No. 17 retired, and now serves as a special assistant to general manager Bill Schmidt. Helton threw the ceremonial first pitch, visited the broadcast booth, and was feted with a replica jersey giveaway for fans who spent the night dodging raindrops. The only drawback was the bad weather forcing the cancellation of a postgame drone show.

All in all, It was a grand way for Helton to spend the eve of his 50th birthday.

But this week has been a homecoming of sorts for Blackmon, 37.

Since returning from a 53-game absence with a right hand fracture, Blackmon has hit safely in all five appearances. That is 7-for-16 (.438) with a homer, six runs scored, a triple, four RBIs, six walks and no strikeouts.

“I haven’t made many mistakes,” Blackmon said. “I’ve really made the pitcher work. He’s got to execute, hopefully, multiple pitches. I’m just grinding out at-bats since I’ve been back.

“I’ve been able to jumpstart my swing this last week,” Blackmon said. “Usually, it’s give-and-take. A lot of times, you wear down but your swing starts to feel really good. I’ve kind of been able to thread that needle -- getting back on the field, feeling good physically and also being able to produce.”

The eighth-inning leadoff homer off White Sox reliever Jimmy Lambert (brother of Rockies starter and Friday night winning pitcher Peter Lambert) was Blackmon’s first since May 28. It ended a 45 at-bat drought.

The recent surge has come as Blackmon has increased his career games played total to 1,465, second-most in club history. Blackmon has often marveled that Helton played in 2,247.

“I played a lot of baseball but he’s got, like, double in all the important categories,” Blackmon said. “It’s really incredible.”

Blackmon is also second to Helton in hits (1,653 to Helton’s 2,519), runs scored (1,401 to 920), doubles (592 to 300) and total bases (4,292 to 2,714).

No shot at those numbers, but can Blackmon stick around long enough to pull a little closer?

Blackmon is in the final year of his contract, but neither he nor the Rockies have ruled out a return. During the week since he returned, it has seemed -- however explainable -- that the struggles of younger hitters are less persistent.

Blackmon admires Helton’s career with one franchise, and he enjoys being productive.

“I really like baseball -- I’m not really saying much with that,” Blackmon said. “I don’t want to be a bad player. It definitely helps to be a good player, be competitive and contribute.”