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October 19, 2007

Todd Helton

THE MODERATOR: We're very lucky to have two prominent members of the Colorado Rockies with us to discuss the World Series which begins next Wednesday. To begin with, we have veteran All-Star Gold Glover Batting Champion and now a National League Champion, Mr. Todd Helton.
Questions for Todd.

Q. Todd, what have Matsui and Taveras meant at the top of your lineup meant to you, and what do you think the impact on the speed of the game is?
TODD HELTON: I think it puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team's defense. When they're on your team you don't really think about it. But when you're playing against another team and you're out there at first base and you've got guys at the top of the order, say like we're playing the Dodgers and you've got Pierre and Furcal at the top of the line, it puts a lot of pressure not only on the pitchers but the defense because they know they can't make any mistakes. The throws have to be perfect and the pitcher's always thinking about them.
I think that's the same thing what's happening with those guys at the top. It puts that little bit of pressure on the opposing team. They're always worried about bunts. They could bunt at any time. They bunt with two strikes. But those guys are really good hitters, too, if you watch them in batting practice, they take a professional BP. They hit the ball the other way.
They're really good players all around defensively. The speed helps us, too, up the middle. Gotta have a solid defense up the middle and they're a big part of that.

Q. Other than the mental outlook that you guys have talked about the one day at a time aspect, can you go back to September 15th and maybe look at the things that the team wasn't quite doing as well as they wanted to do then, and just in terms of baseball, what have you guys been doing the last 22 games that maybe you weren't doing before?
TODD HELTON: What is September 15th?

Q. That was darn near the last time you guys lost. I think you were four and a half games out of the Wild Card race.
TODD HELTON: I don't know what we were -- I know what we've done the last 22 games or whatever, 21, 22 games. And that's been starting pitching has been unbelievable. Bullpen has been unbelievable. We've played good defense. But we've played good defense all year. And I think the biggest thing is just getting timely hits.
I don't think we've just outslugged anybody. I think we've had a lot better stretches swinging the bats in these last 21 games or whatever. But we've got some timely hits in the last whatever three weeks.
I think that's the biggest thing. Everybody in the dugout always knew somebody was going to come through and just had that confidence that it was going to happen and there was never any despair or anything like that, look like that in anybody's eyes. And that's gotta be the biggest thing.

Q. Two-part question. Looking at your 11 years with the Rockies and just kind of wondering if anything stands out as highs or lows in terms of the quest, the club's quest for the World Series and if there were times where it felt like you had it close other than this year, close within your grasp and other times where it felt impossibly far. And I guess the second part is on a personal level for you as somebody who had been in the game with a successful career for so long without making the postseason, were there other people in baseball or in sports who you would look at to sort of commiserate with or to be inspired by for their long trek before making it to the postseason, if they did?
TODD HELTON: I always looked at Wade Boggs. I don't know if he went to the playoffs with Boston or what. But I just remember him finally winning the World Series and riding the horse around the stadium with the Yankees, I guess it was. That is probably the guy I look at and say, hey, finally won a World Series, even though we haven't won yet, but at least we're still going.
The first question was probably, you know, in 2000 we had a really good baseball team. I think we were leading the division going into the All-Star break, and we threw 0-8 trip leading into the All-Star break to drop us way back down. And that's sort of when we went into the dismantling mode and traded everybody and never got back on track after that.
Then we had Tom Goodman center field, top of the lineup and Jeffrey Hammons. We had a really good baseball team, and I thought we were right there. We just went on one stretch and they sort of dismantled the whole thing. So I think that was probably the low point. Went from the high point to the low point. And I think we still ended up right at two games above .500 but that's the only other winning season I've had in Major League baseball.
So to say the least, this has been my most exciting season, the most fun I've had in the game of baseball in a long, long time.

Q. I was wondering if you were paying any closer attention to the ALCS than you normally would, and if so are you forming any impressions?
TODD HELTON: Yeah, I'm definitely paying a little closer attention, no doubt about that. Just because we haven't seen those guys that much, so definitely watching, watching the pitchers, relief pitchers, what they do when they come in with guys on base.
I think forming an opinion, I think they're both really good baseball teams. I think we'll have our hands full with either one. I think both of them have just a little different style. But obviously to be in the postseason, to be where they are at, they're really good baseball teams and we're going to have our hands full.

Q. You guys have had to go through quite a few starting pitchers this season, and the one kind of stable rock there has been kind of Jeff Francis. How important has he been throughout the course of the year, particularly down the stretch when you had that great run?
TODD HELTON: Oh, I don't think you can say enough about what he's done for us, not only the last three weeks but all year. He set the bar as far as our starting pitchers are concerned. I think he's won 17 games in the regular season or something like that, if I'm correct.
That's not easy to do. The thing about Jeff is he's very, very smart. You know exactly what you're going to get out of him every time. And that's his best effort. He's going to pitch even sometimes he doesn't have his best stuff, he's going to go out and pitch. And he just uses his head so much and kind of in the Greg Maddox sort of mode where he kind of knows what the hitter's thinking and he pitches right there along in that line.
He's been a rock, there's no doubt about it. This game is about pitching and he's been a rock as far as that is concerned.

Q. Is there a point where all this long lay-off stops being positive and starts being detrimental a little bit?
TODD HELTON: For me personally, I like it. I need to -- there's a lot of aches and pains that I want to go away. And I wasn't swinging the bat well. So I think the lay-off will be good for me.
As a ball club, I don't know. We were asked the same question when we had three days off in between the DS and the CS, and it didn't seem to make too big of a difference for us.
So I think once the game starts, we'll be right back in the same mind-set that we have been the last three weeks.

Q. If you would answer a question for me about your manager, Clint Hurdle, when you think of him not necessarily as a manager but as a person and his personality, what comes to your mind about Clint?
TODD HELTON: What comes to my mind that I can say in public (laughter). As a person or as a manager?

Q. As a person.
TODD HELTON: As a person. You know, I think of somebody who has sort of found his niche as being a manager. As a person, I think of a good father and a good husband and a person who works really hard at what he does. And he's always good for a one-liner.

Q. Last Saturday the regular season when Tony Gwynn, Jr. got the hit to keep you all alive, were you watching that live and can you recall for us what you were thinking as you watched that happening and unfold?
TODD HELTON: I was watching the game and sort of when they took the lead or whatever I couldn't watch anymore. I went down to the cage and just started hitting, just had someone come down throw to me and we went down and hit. I couldn't watch it anymore. I think I was more nervous than I've been in any game that we've played in. But we definitely owe him one -- we owe the Brewers. It says something about the Brewers. It would have been easy for them to pack up because they didn't have -- their season was pretty much over. So it says something about their character and how they play the game and we definitely owe them a cold one after the season.

Q. What about the whole irony that it's Tony Gwynn, Jr. preventing his dad's team from clinching?
TODD HELTON: That's crazy stuff. Very ironic. I saw Tony when he was doing the games here. I went up and gave him a big hug and told him to pass that along.
Yeah, I'm sure Tony was in a pickle there. It had to have been tough for him, because he's giving his heart and soul to that organization but I'm sure his first priority was with his son at that situation.

Q. I was covering the NLCS. You looked after Game 4 that you were pretty lost for words and the occasion obviously was kind of overwhelming. Now that you've had a few days to think about it, I was just wondering if you had ever thought you would not make it to the World Series and if you were preparing yourself for that? And if so, or even if not, just what it means to finally be going there?
TODD HELTON: I don't know. It's something, to be honest with you, I haven't given that much thought to. I always had the confidence, I don't know why, I don't know what had given me that confidence, but I always thought we would get there. I didn't know when. I didn't know it was going to be as meaningful as this.
I don't think there could be another team that I'm with that would be as meaningful as this team. But I just always had a confidence that we were going to make it and to be honest with you it's probably very unjustified because I've only had one winning season up to this season.
But this thing sort of just clicked for us and happy for each guy in the clubhouse. Was I at a loss for words, there's no doubt I was at a loss for words. I think just after you make that final out and you realize you're going to the World Series and the media runs up to you so quick, you don't have time to formulate any thoughts or to even reflect on how you feel at that moment.
There's just a relief, a sensation that just overwhelms you when you get that final out.

Q. I was wondering if -- and I'm sure you have seen the replays of you catching the final out. Your reaction is one of unbridled joy and expectation. Just what you thought when you saw yourself doing that?
TODD HELTON: I think I look like an idiot all the time. I don't rehearse any of that stuff. That's my true reaction for the moment and when the game's over, I'm not holding anything back. I'm enjoying it and I'm letting it go. I'm not an emotional guy, but when something that significant happens, you just let 'er go.

Q. You must have quite a comfort level when Francis or Fogg is on the mound. I'm wondering if you have that similar feeling when you have Ubaldo or Franklin on the hill. They've had 23 combined starts.
TODD HELTON: Well, I'll tell you what, you know what you're going to get when you have Francis, Fogg on the mound. But those other two have so much other good stuff. Their stuff is so unbelievable, that even if they are nervous, they've got the stuff to overcome it.

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