Where are they now? Wes Helms
When the 2007 regular season opened, Wes Helms was the Phillies' starting third baseman. When it ended, the team had overcome a seven-game deficit with 17 to play to pass the Mets and win what turned out to be the first of five straight National League East titles in one of the greatest comebacks in history.
That would turn out to be the only year Helms played in red pinstripes. It also turned out to be a highlight of his 13-year big league career.
"That was awesome that year," Helms said while spending time in Clearwater, Fla., as a Spring Training guest instructor. "That was special. That was one of my most memorable times in baseball."
"When we got to five or six games left, you could start to see it in the clubhouse," Helms said. "Jimmy Rollins wrote something on the bathroom mirror one day, something like, 'This is doable now.' I just remember that's when it clicked for everybody.
"A different level of energy in the clubhouse. It was like Spring Training all over again. You were just like a spring chicken. 'Here we go.' The little nagging injuries you had, you didn't feel them anymore. Negative things in the season, you forgot about them. It was almost like you started Game 1 of the World Series with five or six games left. And I think that's just when the team turned another page."
The record will show that Helms ended up splitting playing time at third almost equally that year with Abraham Nunez and Greg Dobbs. Helms started the first two games of the NL Division Series against the Rockies.
"No one would have ever thought we would have come back from that many games out with so few games left," Helms said. "To just be a part of that, even though we got beat in the first round by Colorado, that's the biggest thing from that year. The guys on the team. Utley, Burrell, Rollins, Ruiz. All those guys, just to see them fighting and never give up. The one thing I took from that year was that they never gave up."
Helms, now 40, retired after the 2011 season to spend more time with his wife, Meredith, and his family. He's an assistant baseball coach at Briarwood Christian, the school his kids attend outside Birmingham, Ala. Wes Jr. is now 14, Stella is 11 and Waylon -- named after famed country singer Waylon Jennings -- is 7.
"Being a dad, being a husband, doing the things I didn't get to do full time when I was a player," Helms said. "Just kind of making up for lost time."
Now, though, Helms has begun to think about trying to get back into organized baseball. The time he spent in Clearwater only deepened that desire.
"I told my wife I wanted to be home until my youngest started kindergarten, just to make it easier on her," Helms said. "Well, now he's in the first [grade]. And my wheels are starting to turn a little bit now. Coming [to Spring Training] really got them spinning. To be back around the game.
"I'm around the game in high school and all. But it's different. Different level, different style of coaching. This is what I did for a long time. This is in my blood. I'm sure this could lead to conversations. Maybe with the Phillies, maybe with other teams. Whoever wants to talk. But I definitely am starting to think about it."
After the 2007 season ended, the Phils signed free-agent third baseman Pedro Feliz to a two-year contract. The writing was on the wall. On April 5, 2008, Helms' contract was purchased by the Marlins, meaning he missed out on being part of the World Series championship team that year.
"I kind of expected it. It was kind of in the back of my mind [after the Feliz signing]," Helms said. "But I was always that person who never let the past bother me. Yeah, I would have loved to have been there the whole year in '08 and been a part of it. But I was always that player who had a short memory. That's just the way I was programmed. That I was going to give whoever I played for my whole heart and effort and soul. I was a Florida Marlin, and I really couldn't look back at getting traded and how I wasn't going to be there. If I'd done that, I'd have had a long season in Florida.
"That being said, it was hard once they won the World Series. 'Man, I could have been there all year.' But at the time the trade happened, I didn't think about it. I just knew I had to move on and further my career."
Now Helms is ready for the next move in his life.