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Helton calls No. 17 jersey retirement 'very special'

At Aug. 17 ceremony, five-time All-Star will be first Rockie to receive honor

DENVER -- Todd Helton has come to terms with not wearing No. 17 for the Colorado Rockies next season, and is appreciative of the club's decision to make sure no one ever wears it again.

The Rockies will make Helton, who retired at the end of the 2013 season after spending his entire 17-year career with the club, the first player in club history to have his jersey number retired during a three-day celebration Aug. 15-17, the club announced Thursday.

"It's very special and I'm excited," said Helton, taking a break from coyote hunting Thursday. "The realization is setting in that I'm not playing next year, so to have my jersey retired is a tremendous honor."

The Rockies' first-round pick in the 1995 First-Year Player Draft, Helton debuted on Aug. 2, 1997, and never wore another uniform. A five-time All-Star, four-time Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger Award winner and three-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner, Helton holds Rockies career records for games (2,247), runs (1,401), hits (2,519), doubles (592), home runs (369), RBI (1,406), walks (1,335) and extra-base hits (998).

Additionally, Helton ranks 16th all-time among Major League players in doubles (592), 19th in OPS (.953), 35th in walks (1,335) and 37th in extra-base hits (998).

Helton said he is perfectly happy chasing coyotes across the snow and ice, and looking forward to a year without hits and accolades.

"It's really cold here now, so it's probably when I start getting the itch to go south," Helton said. "But physically and mentally, I'm happy where I am. For the last 10 years when I've gone to Spring Training, I know it's two or three weeks too long, so you just get through it. All of the stuff we go over, if you don't know it, you should be going to the Minor Leagues. That's how it is.

"I think when the regular season starts, that's when it'll be hard. But I'm happy with what I'm doing. I'm sure there will be plenty of times when I do miss it. That time hasn't arrived yet."

The "Retire 17 Weekend" will occur during a three-game series with the Reds at Coors Field. The first night, the first 15,000 fans will be issued a "Farewell" bobblehead doll. Before the next game, the first 15,000 fans will receive a Todd Helton collectible jersey.

Rockies owner Dick Monfort said the idea of retiring Helton's number came up when he and club president Keli McGregor were talking to Helton about a contract extension that Helton signed in March 2010, the month before McGregor's unexpected death from a virus that attacked his heart.

"Keli and I told Todd that we didn't want him to play anywhere else and told him, 'We want to retire your number here,'" Monfort said Thursday.

"Seventeen years is the first thing. No one else has been here that long and for his whole career. He was one of our earliest top Draft picks. He holds a lot of team records. With his play and his leadership, it was just natural [to retire his number]."

The official jersey retirement ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 17. The first 15,000 fans will receive a Todd Helton Bobblehead Gnome. The ceremony comes three days before Helton's 41st birthday.

"Do you have to give a speech?" Helton said when asked what he will say to the fans during the ceremony. "I'll give a speech. I have not thought about it. It's probably one of those deals where I'll just say what my heart feels, and leave it at that."

The "Retire 17 Weekend" is part of the promotional calendar the Rockies released Thursday.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb.

Colorado Rockies, Todd Helton