DENVER — Time flies, huh?
“When they called and told me about the reunion,” said Rockies all-timer Todd Helton on Friday a few steps from his office space of almost two decades, first base at Coors Field, “I couldn’t believe it had been 10 years.”
They came, they man-hugged, they had a few cold ones. The Rocktober crew reunited — not all of them, but a bunch of them, including Helton, Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Jamey Carroll, Brad Hawpe, Yorvit Torrealba, Garrett Atkins, Brian Fuentes, Ryan Spilborghs (the aspiring media star), Cory Sullivan (same) and Josh Fogg, the Dragon Slayer, among others. Friday before the Rox hosted the Padres, the Rocktobers had one eye on the past, their historic and never-to-be-duplicated run to the 2007 World Series, and one eye elsewhere.
On batting practice. When Nolan Arenado took his swings, they tuned in.
The current Rockies have your attention, my attention, the Rocktobers' attention. This club's different than that one, for better or worse. Whereas those Rox rode talent that got stupid hot and a tight-knit clubhouse that routinely made dinner reservations for 10, these Rox inch toward a playoff berth on the strength of something else: “The talent level of their pitching is off the charts,” Francis said in a quiet moment alongside the dugout.
You never know about these things. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu and Carlos Gonzalez are MVP candidates, reigning batting champs and hopeful to follow Helton with retired jersey numbers, respectively. But all face contract situations in the future that could move any of them from 20th and Blake. So while it’s difficult to predict, die-hards find it easy to dream. And the takeaway from the Old Guys on the New Guys was clear: these Rox have the look of a club that could stick around the playoff picture for years to come.
“It seems like they have all the pieces covered,” said Helton, one of the few returning players whose hairline hasn’t budged.
Oh, there’s a lot to happen before now and then. As Arenado and Helton exchanged jabs behind the cage, I wondered: if the Rockies stray from their current status as a franchise committed and able to reach the postseason, would Arenado stick around these hills for 17 seasons as Helton did? Doubt it.
“I walked in and looked at him (in the clubhouse). He’s a man now,” Helton said of Arenado. “He’s a reason to come to the ballpark.”
Rocktober was born Sept. 16, 2007, a 13-0 win against the Florida Marlins that put the Rox at 77-72 on the year. Over a stretch of 29 days, the Rocktobers would win 21 games, lose one. Rockies manager Bud Black said other teams, including his Padres at the time, watched the winning streak from afar and borrowed a line from Paul Newman's Butch Cassidy: “Who are those guys?”
They’re a little older, a little grayer, a little more round in the middle. And their attention was on these guys.