ON HIS LOVE OF ANIMALS We had two dogs growing up, Nike and Boz. Boz was a chocolate Lab, named for Brian Bosworth. Nike was a German shepherd. I now have a three-year old chocolate Lab named Abby (above), who I take duck hunting with me in the off-season.
ON WHAT SPORT IS THE NATIONAL PASTIME Growing up in Tennessee, all I heard about was University of Tennessee football. We didn't even know about professional sports. For a little while in my junior year I was the starting quarterback at UT--until Peyton Manning came along. Baseball was always the Number 1 sport for me. For everybody else in Tennessee, college football was the national pastime.
ON TAKING HIS WIFE, CHRISTY, TO A ROCKIES SPRING TRAINING FANTASY CAMP FOR THEIR HONEYMOON IN 2000 I had a blast. I was on the field from eight in the morning to eight at night. I don't know what she was doing. After the season we had a real honeymoon. I rented a sailboat with a captain and a cook, and we went cruising from island to island in the Caribbean. She forgave me.
ON KENNY CHESNEY'S NEW ALBUM, BE AS YOU ARE, WHICH DEPICTS ISLAND LIFE Kenny Chesney is my favorite country singer. We both grew up outside of Knoxville. I know him a little. They say country music has got to have crying, drinking, trains and trucks, but if Kenny wants his country music to come off the beach, that's great with me.
ON LEARNING TO HIT TO THE OPPOSITE FIELD My father, Jerry, caught in the minors for a little while, with the Twins' organization. He taught me how to hit in our garage, batting off a tee he made from a washing machine hose. I was five. There was a fiberglass fishing boat in the corner of the garage. If I pulled the ball, I'd ding the boat. My model was Rod Carew. Not for stance, but for the way he could go opposite field. My father and I watched this tape of Rod Carew we had, which we got off This Week in Baseball. We watched it over and over.
ON HAVING PLAYED AMATEUR BASEBALL IN CUBA IN 1993 The Cuban fans sing, they clap, they live and die for baseball. It's like European soccer. The only thing you could compare it with here would be Alabama football.
ON THE LOSING (THE ROCKIES ARE 534-623 IN HELTON'S SEVEN-PLUS YEARS IN COLORADO) It hasn't taken a toll on me personally. All it's done is made me hungrier to win. When we finally do win, it will be that much sweeter because of everything we've been through.
ON BEING, AT AGE 31, AN ELDER ON A CLUB SOMETIMES CALLED TODD AND THE TODDLERS I don't feel like an elder. I feel like I have a lot of baseball ahead of me. I have a two-year-old [named Tierney]. She's a toddler. The young guys on my team are men who can play.
ON A RECENT CLAIM BY CARDINALS BROADCASTER WAYNE HAGIN THAT IMPLIED HELTON HAD USED STEROIDS (HAGIN HAS SINCE APOLOGIZED) It's scary, how much influence a guy with a microphone can have. I have never used steroids. Never. The most upsetting thing was the glee in his voice when he said it, like he had a scoop. He had nothing, but I'm the one who has to live with the false words.
ON HIS ABILITY TO HIT BALLS OUT OF THE STRIKE ZONE There's a fine line there, and I'm over it all the time. You swing at a ball and drive in a run, it's great. But you swing at a ball for strike three, when it could have been ball four, and you want to kick yourself. The pitchers know if they throw high and outside and I can get a good look at it, I'm swinging.
--As told to Michael Bamberger
HELTON, A CAREER .337 HITTER, HAS HIT .353 IN THE MONTH OF MAY. AT 31 HIS .612 SLUGGING PERCENTAGE IS SECOND BEST AMONG ACTIVE PLAYERS.
"MY FATHER TAUGHT ME HOW TO HIT IN OUR GARAGE, OFF A TEE HE MADE FROM A HOSE"
Photograph by Jeffrey Lowe
JOHN W. MCDONOUGH