January 28, 2008
Knoxville (WVLT) -- Last fall, when the Colorado Rockies made a run at the World Series, it was as if Knoxville adopted the Major League Baseball Franchise. The reason for that, Todd Helton.
The former University of Tennessee and Central High School standout is doing just that. Helton was recognized late Monday morning for his help and contributions in the re-development of the old Bill Meyer Stadium.
The former home of the Knoxville Blue Jays, a AA minor league organization, has been turned into a quality baseball/softball complex.
"This is where I'm from and this is where I was raised. This is why am I am what I am," the Rockies slugger told Sports Overtime's Daryl Hobby. "There's alot of people that helped me get to where I'm at in my life. I'm very thankful for them and all they've done for me and this just a little way of showing."
Helton will spend at least two more days in the Knoxville area before returning back to Denver. On Wednesday, Helton will see his number 3 Volunteers baseball jersey retired. It'll be the first Vols baseball jersey retired in the program's history.
Helton starred on the diamond at UT from 1993-95 and is the most decorated and arguably the greatest player in the 98-year history of the Volunteers program. The Knoxville native's legendary achievements at both the collegiate and professional levels are unparalleled by any player to ever don the Orange & White.
Helton's individual accolades at Tennessee include being named a three-time All-America, the 1995 National and Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and the 1995 SEC Male Athlete of the Year. His dominant batting and pitching prowess powered the Vols to three straight NCAA Mideast Regionals, back-to-back SEC titles in 1994 and 1995 as well as the 1995 NCAA College World Series.
He finished his three-year career as UT's all-time leader in 12 different offensive statistical categories and still holds the school mark for home runs (38) and RBI (238). On the mound, he posted 19 wins, a 2.24 ERA and a school-record 23 saves. He amazingly threw 47 2/3 scoreless innings against 26 teams in 1994-another UT record.
The Rockies made Helton the eighth overall pick in the 1995 MLB draft, and the five-time All-Star stands alongside Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as the only players in history to post seven straight seasons with 25 home runs, 95 RBI and a batting average higher than .315. And his 44 doubles this year made him the only player in MLB history to record at least 35 doubles in each of his first 10 seasons.
Helton graduated from Knoxville's Central High School and also played football at Tennessee, appearing in 12 games as a quarterback from 1992-94 and throwing four touchdown passes.