Major milestone in 17-year career comes in seventh inning against Reds
DENVER -- Todd Helton slid into second base and let out a sigh of relief. He finally had his 2,500th career hit.
Helton slapped the seventh pitch he saw -- in classic Helton style, he first fouled off three pitches -- against Reds reliever Curtis Partch just inside the third-base line and into the left-field corner for a double. The hit came in the seventh inning of a 7-4 win over the Reds at Coors Field on Sunday afternoon.
"Every at-bat felt like it was getting longer and longer," Helton said. "I was getting a little concerned because I definitely wanted to get 2,500 here at home in front of the home crowd. I was already in my mind thinking of who was pitching tomorrow. Fans were great, teammates were great. It was mostly relief, but I was excited."
After Helton slid into second, the crowd came together in an extended roar, Helton twice waving and tipping his helmet to the crowd. After Partch retired the side, the crowd once again rose to its feet at the end of the inning, teammates stepping from the dugout to congratulate Helton.
"Just congratulations, that's basically all you can say," said right fielder Michael Cuddyer, who compared the moment to when he watched Jim Thome hit his 600th home run. "As a baseball player, you know everything that he's gone through to get to this point and get to 2,500 hits, and you're excited for him."
It was fitting that the milestone came on a double for the player who leads all active players with 584 career doubles. This one pushed him past Hall of Famer Robin Yount for 17th in Major League history.
"It's a big number," Helton said." I'm very proud of it; I'm very proud of every one of them. Sitting here, 40 years old and going out and playing baseball for a living, I don't take that lightly. I'm very humble and appreciative for every day I get to go out there and put on the uniform."
The anticipation continued to build after Helton smashed two home runs and drove in a career-high-tying six runs in Friday's win over the Reds. Helton stepped to the plate in the eighth inning of that game with the chance to hit a third three-run homer for career hit No. 2,500, but he struck out.
He struck out three times in Saturday's loss and was 0-for-2 to start Sunday's game, intentionally walked in the fifth to the displeasure of the Coors Field crowd.
Helton, the face of the Rockies for most of their early existence, has spent all 17 seasons of his career with Colorado and owns franchise records for home runs, hits and games played.
Rockies manager Walt Weiss was Helton's teammate in 1997, when Helton played his first big league game. Sixteen years later, Weiss was again the observer, watching Helton inscribe his name in another place in the Major League record book.
"You knew he could hit right away; that was obvious," Weiss said. "But I always appreciated as a young kid, the way he would just put his head down and go. There wasn't a lot of lot of bells and whistles. He showed up, he worked hard, he went out and he competed hard. He's done that for a long time.
"I got to see Todd in his very first game, and to be here for his 2,500th hit, it's a great experience for me. But what a career, been a great career."
Helton joins Cardinals legend Stan Musial as the only players with 2,500 hits, 550 doubles, 350 home runs and a career batting average of at least .310.