DENVER - In his first at-bat of his last game at Coors Field, retiring first baseman Todd Helton launched a solo home run over the right field fence.
The crowd roared as he rounded the bases and the cheers continued after Helton reached the dugout, prompting a curtain call from the 17-year pro.
The homer was his team's first run of the evening.
Helton also doubled, had a sacrifice fly and drove in three runs in his final game, but the Boston Red Sox used Will Middlebrooks' two homers and career-high seven RBIs to beat the Colorado Rockies 15-5 Wednesday night.
Before the game, Helton told reporters he would try to contain his emotions as he played his heart out for the hometown crowd.
"I know there's no crying in baseball, so, you know, I shed a tear here - on the way here - so hopefully that will let me keep my emotions in check on the field," he said.
Prior to the game, Helton's daughter Tierney Faith, who celebrated her 11th birthday on Tuesday, threw out the first pitch to her father and jumped into his arms.
Then, the team presented her father with a 6-year-old gelding paint horse, complete with custom saddle emblazoned with the team's logo. The horse’s name is "A Tru Bustamove."
After the ceremony, Helton hugged and high-fived his former and current teammates and long-time friend Peyton Manning in the dugout.
The most accomplished player in the team’s 20-year history was feted with video tributes beforehand and throughout the game, including one from Denver Broncos quarterbacks past and present: John Elway and Manning.
Helton’s wife, Christy, said that her ticket list numbered 72 -- enough to fill three suites. Helton’s father, Jerry, and his brother, Rodney, were here, along with their wives. Manning, a friend of Helton’s and a former football teammate at Tennessee, attended but kept a low profile.
Helton’s No. 17 was spray-painted in the grass along both baselines. His number also was mowed in large numerals into the outfield grass.
Many in the capacity crowd of 48,775 received a Todd Helton bobblehead doll. All joined in several standing ovations, a regular occurrence during the final homestand. He acknowledged them with a tip of the batting helmet.
"I’m very happy for him from a greedy, jealous standpoint," Rockies teammate Matt Belisle said. "I hope everyone realizes who they’re watching for the last time."
Figuratively speaking, the night was better than slogging through any sort of extended farewell tour this season. Helton wanted no part of such attention. What he wanted, above all, was to be absolutely certain that this was his final season.
“I wasn’t going to Brett Favre it,” Helton said on Sunday, “saying I was going to retire and end up not retiring.”
In that sense, Helton’s good health gave him some cause for pause. He said that “he felt great” during the season — a welcome relief from the injuries that have weighed down the latter portion of his career.
Despite relatively ordinary production (.252 batting average, 15 homers, 59 RBIs), Helton still has managed a few more memories. He executed a hidden-ball trick and hit a game-tying, ninth-inning homer against St. Louis last Thursday. He had three hits and drove in two runs last Sunday against Arizona, reaching 1,400 career RBIs.
“There were times this year when I’d go out and do well,” he said. “But in the end, I don’t think in the offseason I could get my body ready to go again.”
Helton’s final determination was holding a press conference last Monday to officially announce his intentions, thereby giving the fans a final chance to shower him with affection.
Teammates and friends had a say in the timing of his final say. So did a relative stranger.
“I was doing a national radio show and the guy says, ‘I’d hate for it to be in October and just see in a press release that Todd Helton has retired,’ ” Helton said. “I get off the interview and the guy says, ‘You can’t always look at it from your perspective.’ ’’
Among the final tributes, there was an unusual display on Sunday. A fan held up a painting of a centaur. The creature of Greek mythology was adorned with Helton’s head.
Helton — the man, the myth, the Rockies legend — acknowledged the artwork. The “Cen-Todd” was someone else’s perspective, something straight out of left field no less. Nonetheless, he appreciated it.