Sunday, October 13, 2013

Hall of Fame Todd

Like a lot of little leaguers, I dreamed of playing major league baseball.  In my wildest dreams, I would not only play in the majors, but I would be the first Todd voted into the Hall of Fame.  Those dreams never went beyond high school, but I may have been fortunate to watch the first Todd to be voted into the Hall of Fame.

Todd Helton played the same number of seasons as the number he wore, 17, and in what has too often become a rarity, all for one team.  Like other “faces of the franchise”, who spent their whole big league careers playing for one team, Helton is the Rockies since he was on the field for 17 of their 20 years in existence. Like Tony Gywnn with the San Diego Padres, Cal Ripken Jr. with the Baltimore Orioles, and George Brett with the Kansas City Royals, Helton was a stalwart with the team through the many bad seasons and the few highlights of the 2007 World Series and 2009 playoffs.  Statistically he shares numbers with another city icon whose bronze statue stands outside his team’s ballpark.

When Helton collected his 2,500 hit this season he joined Hall of Famer Stan Musial as the only player with 2,500 hits, 550 doubles, 350 home runs and a lifetime average above .315.  Helton also distinguished himself on the defensive side of the ball, compiling a lifetime .996 fielding percentage by making only 79 errors in 20,579 chances and earning three gold gloves.  It was only fitting that in his final home game as my son and I watched he hit a home run and a double since those two marks defined him as a player.  Helton’s final lifetime offensive numbers, .316 batting average (52nd in MLB history), 2519 hits (92nd in MLB history), 592 doubles (16th in MLB history), 369 home runs (74th in MLB history), 1,406 runs batted in (72nd in MLB history), .414 on-base percentage (20th in MLB history) and a .539 slugging percentage (32nd in MBL history).

The sweat had hardly dried from Helton’s uniform after his final game, before the debate about his Hall of Fame credentials began (no debate in my mind).  However, he is definitely the face on the Denver Sports Mt. Rushmore next to John Elway for the Broncos and Joe Sakic of the Avalanche with the Nuggets spot still available.  I may not become that Hall of Fame Todd I dreamed about being as a kid, but I did get the high five the real deal after his final home game.

Helton High Fives Fans After Final Home Game

Friday, October 4, 2013

How Can a Giant Be Fragile?

My son is 6” 2” and 189 lbs at 14 years old.  Rather than him looking up to me, I look up to him in more than one way every day.  He is a giant, but it turns out he is also fragile.

We learned this summer that Jack has a genetic condition tagged on the X chromosome, known as Fragile X syndrome.  Fragile X is tied to neural development thus being linked to autism and mental retardation.  Very early in life Jack was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism that is characterized by difficulties in social interaction, non-verbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. Asperger’s is a relatively new diagnosis named after Hans Asperger and first observed by him in 1944.  Fragile X is also fairly new being first identified in the 1970’s.  Both conditions are not something you cure, but rather something that you manage.  Fragile X affects approximately 1 in 4000 males and 1 in 8000 females.

We just think this makes Jack special.  In the most recent issue (October 7, 2013) of Time magazine, Temple Grandin (famous autistic CSU professor) and Richard Panek wrote an article “What’s Right with the Autistic Mind” adapted from their book The Autistic Brain (Haughton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013). In the article they state that “by focusing on the deficits, we overlook the strengths of the brains built differently.”

Jack’s stature not only makes him strong, but his brain is an uncanny strength we try to find ways to use every day.  With a near photographic memory, Jack has an uncanny knowledge of history and sports trivia that we are convinced may make him a Jeopardy champion.  His different viewpoint on the world also creates his own brand of comedy that keeps his whole family laughing.

Fortunately, in Colorado we are lucky to have a unique specialty clinic for children and their families affected with Fragile X syndrome, the Fragile X Treatment and Research Center at Children's Hospital Colorado.  With an upcoming appointment with their specialists, our journey with Jack will continue as we enjoy the adventure of living with a fragile giant.

My Fragile Giant and I at Coors Field