07/13/2004 10:15 PM ET
Helton plays waiting game
Rockies All-Star limited to pinch-hit appearance
By Rich Draper / MLB.com
HOUSTON -- Colorado's five-time All-Star Todd Helton played a waiting game in Tuesday night's 75th Midsummer Classic at Minute Maid Park -- to the extreme.
|Todd Helton came off the bench to face Mariano Rivera in the ninth. (Charlie Neibergal/AP)
Like almost three hours worth.
The innings rolled by until the bottom of the ninth, when Helton finally made an appearance, pinch-batting for Carlos Beltran and facing New York Yankee reliever Mariano Rivera.
All that wait for ... a popup to first on a cut fastball. And a 9-4 loss to the American League to boot. Rats.
"I'd never won an All-Star Game and I'm hoping this would be the one," said Helton, who did some hitting in the cage to keep loose. "Yeah, and I had some barbecue ribs in the clubhouse -- no, I'm kidding about that.
"But you're never loose enough to face that guy [Rivera]. He's unbelievable. You like to do well if you get in the game, but that's baseball. I was facing one of the best closers of all time."
Helton is the only active Major Leaguer with a .300 average, 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs in each of the last five years and one of only six players in history to do that over five consecutive seasons.
The two-time Gold Glove winner is currently batting .348 with 17 homers and 57 RBIs.
You'd figure a veteran such as Helton, an eight-year veteran with a lifetime .338 average might be a bit miffed to be treated like sub, waiting and waiting for his chance to hit.
Not a chance.
"I felt like an All-Star," he said. "You're an All-Star and you're happy to be here and happy to do what they tell you to do. It's always a good experience."
Next step: An "off-day" on Wednesday -- "Not really, I have to travel," laughed Helton -- then a four-game set against NL West foe San Francisco starting Thursday.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.