10/23/07 11:04 AM ET
Rox stars step onto grand stage
Destiny calls veteran Helton; fans get to know rising Holliday
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
They might be surprised to learn that Holliday has been doing this for four steadily improving seasons. At 27, he has jacked up his numbers across the board year-to-year.His RBIs have gone from 57 to 87 to 114 to 137. Average? .290 to .307 to .326 to .340. Home runs? 14 to 19 to 34 to 36. Pick any other category, and you'll see the same chart. For six days in October, plus perhaps one day in November, the nation will see the smooth, explosive swing of an intense young man. Holliday is finding his first playoff experience draining and exhilarating at the same time. "Every out being so crucial is a bit exhausting," he said. "There are so many emotional ups and downs, with every pitch and every out meaning so much. At the same time, it's a lot of fun." Presumably, the fun part did not include an unusually long layoff from Championship Series to World Series that exposed the Rockies to daily media assaults. This is an obligation Helton and Holliday accept as team cover boys, but not enthusiastically. They both locker in the corner of the clubhouse closest to the refuge-offering players' lounge. They are both cordial and cooperative, but convey the impression they play this game to excel in the competition, not for the personal glory available by talking about yourself. With his dry wit, Helton even noted prior to a midweek workout that his normal routine by this time of the year would be to be off "hunting ducks ... or maybe reporters." Hirsute Helton and bald Holliday both revel in the unique brotherhood a baseball team fosters. Think about it: By the World Series' first pitch, these guys will have been together every day for eight months, since the early stages of Spring Training. That elevates group success above any individual feat. In retrospect, Rockies players unanimously finger as the fuse of their 21-1 run the ninth-inning, two-out, two-run homer by Helton off the Dodgers' Takashi Saito, turning an 8-7 loss into a 9-8 victory. The evidence supports their gut feeling: That home run, in the nightcap of a Sept. 18 doubleheader, delivered win No. 3 of the ongoing 21 of 22. Joining the chorus, Holliday said, "That one really stands out to me. That was a huge win for us." But Helton wants no part of it. "There are so many pitches, so many swings, so many hits that meant so much," he said, "you can't single out anything." Holliday riffed on the same tune in the immediate aftermath of being named the MVP of the NLCS, an award that virtually embarrassed him. "I just happened to get it, but this belongs to everyone in here," Holliday had said. "It's just a great feeling to be able to share [the championship] with guys you care about, not just as good baseball players, but as brothers. This is a special time, to be able to share something like this." You share it with your adopted family, and also your real family. Thus, Helton celebrated the NL pennant in the wet Coors Field clubhouse with his toddler daughter in his arms, just as he had a few days earlier when the Rockies had completed their Division Series sweep. "She now thinks," Helton said, "that after every game we come in here and pour champagne over each other's heads." If only she knew ... but after 1,578 dry games, Dad can pop some buttons along with the corks.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.