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Todd Helton

Todd Helton

Position(s):
1B, LF, OF, RF, DH
Nicknames:
The Toddfather
Born:
August 20, 1973
Bats:
Left
Throws:
Left
Height:
6' 2"
Weight:
215 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-02-1997 with COL
Allstar Selections:
2000 Hank A, 2000 SS, 2001 GG, 2001 SS, 2002 GG, 2002 SS, 2003 SS, 2004 GG

Todd Lynn Helton (born August 20, 1973 in Knoxville, Tennessee) is a Major League Baseball first baseman for the Colorado Rockies. He is a five-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, four-time National League Player of the Month and three-time Gold Glove winner.

As of the end of the 2010 season, among all active players, Helton was second in on-base percentage (.424), third in doubles (527), fifth in intentional walks (178), and seventh in slugging percentage (.555).

Helton holds the Colorado Rockies club records for hits (2,266), home runs (336), doubles (535), walks (1,204), runs scored (1,282), RBIs (1,254), on-base percentage (.423), games played (1,958), total bases (3,879) and other categories. Helton hit his 2,000th career hit against the Atlanta Braves on May 19, 2009.

As of the 2011 season, Helton was the fifth-most senior active MLB player to have spent his entire career with one club, behind Chipper Jones, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

High school years

Helton attended Central High School in Knoxville, Tennessee and was a letterman in football and baseball. In football, he posted 2,772 total yards as quarterback.

In baseball, as a senior, Helton posted a .655 batting average and 12 home runs and was named the Regional Player of the Year. Baseball America also bestowed him with All-American honors for his senior season.

University of Tennessee

Helton received an athletic scholarship from the University of Tennessee to play both football and baseball. He was named a Gatorade Player of the Year for football and baseball at Tennessee. As a freshman and sophomore, he backed up Heath Shuler at quarterback. Entering his junior season in 1994, he was the back-up to Jerry Colquitt and ahead of Peyton Manning. After Colquitt tore knee ligaments in the season opener at UCLA, Helton took over as the starter. Three weeks later against Mississippi State, he suffered a knee injury himself and was replaced by Manning. Manning is now on the Indianapolis Colts. He did, however, win the Dick Howser Trophy as National Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year following his junior baseball season. He was also a member of the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity.

MLB career

Draft and debut

Helton was drafted in the first round, eighth overall, in the 1995 Major League Baseball Draft by the Colorado Rockies. He was signed on August 1, 1995. Helton spent the next couple of years playing for the class-A Asheville Tourists, AA New Haven Ravens and AAA Colorado Springs Sky Sox before getting a crack at the major leagues. He made his major-league debut on August 1, 1997, in a 6-5 road loss against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Helton started in left field and flied out in his first at-bat. He recorded his first hit, a single, in his second at-bat off Francisco Cordova. Helton also hit his first home run, a solo shot, that day off Marc Wilkins.

1997-1999: Early career

During the 1997 season, Helton hit .280/.337/.484 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage), with five home runs, in 35 games played. When Rockies first baseman Andrés Galarraga went to the Atlanta Braves in 1998, Helton became the full-time starter at first base for Colorado during the 1998 season. The Rockies named Helton their club representative in 1998, the first time the team ever gave a rookie that role. He hit .315/.380/.530, with 25 home runs and 97 RBI, in 152 games played. Helton led all major-league rookies in average (.315), homers (25), RBI (97), multi-hit games (49), total bases (281), slugging percentage (.530) and extra base hits (63). He also led all National League rookies in runs (78), hits (167) and on-base percentage (.380). At the time, only Mike Piazza (35), David Justice (28) and Darryl Strawberry (26) had hit more homers as an NL rookie since 1972, and only Piazza had more RBI (112). Helton finished second to Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs in the voting for National League Rookie of the Year. The Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame named Helton its 1998 Professional Athlete of the Year.

In 1999, Helton had a .320 batting average, .395 on-base percentage and .587 slugging percentage. He also hit 35 home runs and 113 RBI, while drawing 68 walks. On June 19, 1999, in a 10-2 Rockies home win over the Florida Marlins, Helton hit for the cycle. He fell short of hitting a second cycle on four different occasions during the 1999 season, which would have made him only the second player since 1900 (Babe Herman was the first to do so in 1931) to hit two cycles in one season.

2000-2006: Mid-career

Helton enjoyed arguably his best season in 2000, leading the major leagues in batting average (.372), RBI (147), doubles (59), total bases (405), extra base hits (103), slugging percentage (.698) and OPS (1.162). He led the National League in hits (216) and on-base percentage (.463). Helton hit a league-leading home batting average of .391 and placed third in the National League in road batting average (.353). Helton's MLB-leading 103 extra base hits tied for the fourth most in MLB history and the second most in NL history. His National League-leading numbers in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and batting average gave him the "percentage triple crown." Helton became the second Rockies player (Larry Walker in 1999) to accomplish that feat. Helton and Walker made the Rockies the first team in MLB history to record percentage triple crowns in consecutive seasons with different players. Helton became only the fourth player in National League history to lead the NL in both batting average and RBI. He became the first player in National League history and the fifth player in MLB history (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Hank Greenberg are the others) to have at least 200 hits, 40 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, 100 extra base hits and 100 walks in one season.

Helton was invited to his first career Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2000. He also received National League Player of the Month honors for May and August. He finished fifth in voting for the MVP award. However, the Associated Press, The Sporting News, USA Baseball Alumni and Baseball Digest all named Helton the MLB Player of the Year. Buck O'Neil and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum presented Helton with the Walter Fenner "Buck" Leonard Legacy Award. Helton was also given the team-honored version of the Roberto Clemente Man of Year Award, for his community contributions to Eastern Tennessee. Furthermore, he was the National League winner of the second annual Hank Aaron Award. For all of his success, the Colorado Rockies rewarded Helton with a nine-year, $141.5 million dollar contract in April 2001 that took effect in 2003.

The following season, Helton posted a career-high 49 home runs (22 of them occurred away from Coors Field). The 49 home runs tied teammate Larry Walker for the most home runs ever by a Colorado Rockies player in a single season. Additionally, Helton averaged a .336 batting average, .432 on-base percentage and .685 slugging percentage. He also had 105 extra base hits, making him the first player in MLB history to have at least 100 total extra base hits in back-to-back seasons. Furthermore, Helton attained 402 total bases, making him only the fourth player in MLB history to do so in consecutive seasons (Chuck Klein, Gehrig and Foxx are the others).

Helton appeared in his second consecutive All-Star game in 2001 - his first as a starter. He won his first Gold Glove at first base and was once again a top candidate for MVP, but was overshadowed by Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.

In 2002, Helton had a .329 batting average, 30 home runs, 109 RBI, 98 walks, 107 runs, .577 slg % and 319 total bases. He became the first player in Rockies history to score at least 100 runs in four consecutive seasons. He was named Player of the Month for May, as he hit .347 with six doubles, one triple, 10 homers and 28 RBI during the month. Helton was named to his third consecutive All-Star game - second straight as a starter. He also received his second consecutive Gold Glove.

2003 saw Helton involved in the closest NL batting race in history, as he hit .35849, while St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols finished first with a .35871 batting average. During the season, Helton also had 33 home runs, 117 RBI, 135 runs, 49 doubles and five triples. He won his fourth Player of the Month honor during the month of April, as he hit .337 with six home runs, 27 RBI, 28 runs, 11 doubles and 24 walks. He also appeared in his fourth consecutive All-Star game.

During the 2004 season, Helton again finished second in the NL batting race, as he hit .347, while San Francisco Giants left fielder Barry Bonds hit .362. Helton also had 32 homers and 96 RBI on the season. He became the first player in MLB history to hit at least .315 with 25 HR and 95 RBI in each of his first seven full seasons in the majors. He became only the third player in MLB history to accomplish that feat during any seven-year stretch in a career (Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth are the others). He set a franchise record by hitting at least 30 home runs in six consecutive seasons. Helton was named to his team-record fifth consecutive All-Star game and won his third Gold Glove during the season.

In 2005, Helton spent time on the disabled list (July 26 - August 9) for the first time in his career with a strained left calf muscle. He hit .320 with 20 home runs, 79 RBI, 92 runs and 45 doubles for the season. He was under 1.000 in OPS (finished with .979 OPS) for the first time since 1999. Helton also wasn't named to the National League All-Star team for the first time since 1999. However, he did end up joining Gehrig and Bill Terry as the only first baseman in MLB history to have at least a .315 batting average in eight consecutive seasons.

Helton swinging at a pitch during a game against the Seattle Mariners.

The following season, Helton had to spend time on the disabled list again, this time from April 20 - May 4, as he was diagnosed with acute terminal ileitis. He hit .302 with 15 home runs, 81 RBI, 40 doubles, 91 walks and a .404 on-base percentage for the season. He ended the season below .900 in OPS (he had .880 OPS) for the first time since entering the league in 1997 when he only played 35 games that year. Helton finished third on the Rockies roster in 2006 in runs (94), hits (165), doubles (40), total bases (260) and multi-hit games (42).

Also in 2005, St. Louis Cardinals radio broadcaster Wayne Hagin claimed manager Don Baylor said he suspected that Helton tried steroids in the 1990s, which Helton denied.

2007-present

Helton's power and RBI production stayed relatively level to his previous year's stats during the 2007 season, as he managed 17 home runs and 91 RBI. Despite these numbers being below his career averages, Helton has so far kept up his string of seven consecutive seasons with an on-base percentage higher than .400, nine consecutive seasons with a batting average above .300, and has also been walked more times than he has struck out (a feat he has accomplished in seven of his first ten full seasons).

Helton recorded his 1,000th career hit at Coors Field on June 20, 2007, in a 6-1 home win over the New York Yankees, becoming only the fifth active player to have 1,000 career hits in one ballpark.

On September 9, 2007, in 4-2 home victory over the San Diego Padres, Helton hit his 35th double of the season. This made him the first and only player in MLB history to have hit 35 or more doubles in at least 10 consecutive seasons (1998–2007).

Helton hit his 300th career home run on September 16, 2007, in a 13-0 home win over the Florida Marlins. He became the first player to hit 300 home runs for the Colorado Rockies.

Helton made what was arguably the most pivotal play of the Rockies' 2007 season in the second game of a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers on September 18, 2007. In the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and two strikes, Helton hit an emotional two-run walk-off home run off Dodgers closer Takashi Saito. The home run kept the Rockies alive in the bid to win the wild card or National League West title. The Rockies eventually clinched the National League wild card, in a 9-8 extra innings victory over the San Diego Padres in a wild card tiebreaker game, allowing Helton to appear in the playoffs for the first time in his career. Colorado went on to sweep the Philadelphia Phillies in three games of the National League Division Series. Helton hit a triple in the first pitch of his first career playoff at-bat in the opening game against the Phillies at Philadelphia. The Rockies also swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in four games of the National League Championship Series, sending the Rockies on their first trip to the World Series in franchise history.

In August 2008, Helton was diagnosed with a degenerative back condition, putting his health and ability to continue play in question. On May 19, 2009, Helton got his 2,000th hit, a single, as part of a 8-1 road loss to the Atlanta Braves. On July 22, 2009, Helton hit his 500th career double in a 4-3 home victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He became the 50th player in MLB history to hit 500 career doubles and the fastest to do since 1954. Helton also joined Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams as the only players in MLB history to have at least 500 doubles, 320 home runs and a .325 batting average for a career. On March 11, 2010, Helton signed a two-year contract extension through the 2013 season. The extension for 2012 and 2013 will be worth a total of $9.9 million.

As noted above Helton has a degenerative back condition and for much of July, 2010 has been on disabled list due to problem with his low back. Helton returned from the DL in August and hit .256, with 8 HR, and 37 RBI for the season. After the 2010 season Helton said he would return to the Rockies in 2011 following rumors of a possible retirement. On February 15, 2011 Helton said that he wants to play baseball for 3 more years and he would prefer to stay on the Rockies.

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2007 World Series, All Star, Colorado Rockies, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger Award, Todd Helton

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