For most of his career, Todd Helton had been a rock solid presence in the Rockies lineup, never missing more than 10 games a year. In '05 and '06, however, Helton was hit with enough injuries and ailments to oust him from the field for a whopping 18 and 17 games, respectively.
The most serious scare came when Helton was hospitalized last April with acute terminal ileitis, an intestinal ailment that shook Colorado with fear for Helton's health. His prompt hospitalization led to Helton's quick return to the Rockies and his promise that whether his name was in the lineup or not, he would be toeing the dirt at first base the first day he was eligible.
The episode was a wake-up call for Helton, forcing the workaholic to reexamine his priorities.
"I do put too much emphasis on the game and not enough on my family," Helton said. "You realize that you're not bulletproof and you do have to slow down. It's a bad thing that happened. But I think it came at a very good time for me personally."
Helton got back on top of his game while keeping it in perspective. As he and his wife, Christy, raise their daughter, Tierney, in their adopted home of Colorado, the 5-year-old offers one of the hardest working men in baseball a daily reminder of what he values most.
The soft-spoken superstar has fully grown into his role as the face of the franchise, anchoring his family in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where his ranch offers him full access to the outdoors he has loved since his Tennessee childhood.
Helton's compassion for the kids who visit Coors Field and his sense of responsibility for the team's fans reflect the values of the organization. And as committed as he has been to establishing a winning tradition, he acknowledged that perhaps it was worth the 11-year wait for a taste of the postseason, since now he can share with his daughter the unbridled emotion of a baseball lifer reaching baseball's highest peak.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.