In September of 2013, Todd Helton announced that he would retire and end his 17-year Major League career.
Now, just four years later, Helton has returned to baseball.
On Jan. 27, 2017, it was announced that Todd Helton would be returning to the baseball program at Tennessee as director of player development, a move that generated buzz around the program.
"It's an honor to have one of Tennessee's best players coming back to be with our program," head coach Dave Serrano said.
Helton played all 17 years of his major-league career with the Colorado Rockies, and if you asked people who knew him well, they would tell you that his competitive nature is what made him such a great player and person to be around.
Helton's competitive nature led him to a decorated and memorable career in college. At Tennessee, as a consensus Freshman All-American, First-Team All-American as a sophomore and the National Collegiate Player of the Year in his junior season, Helton's career was nothing short of extraordinary.
Helton dominated college pitching while playing at Tennessee, hitting .407 with 20 home runs to go along with 92 RBI's as a junior.
If he wasn't punishing pitchers in the batters box, he was fanning opposing batters himself. Helton holds the SEC's record for most scoreless innings pitched, with a staggering 47.2 in his sophomore season.
Along with his individual success, Helton also was a part of some of the Vol's most successful baseball teams. In his three seasons, he helped the team achieve three consecutive regional appearances and a 3rd place finish in the 1995 College World Series.
Helton would go on to be drafted 8th overall in the 1st round of the 1995 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Colorado Rockies. With the Rockies being a relatively new franchise at the time Helton was drafted, the team needed a player to breathe life into the organization.
And they got that with Helton.
After ripping through the minors in 1996, Helton reached the Major League in 1997. After the Atlanta Braves traded for Rockies' first baseman, Andres Galarraga, Helton was named Colorado's starting first baseman in 1998 and was named the team representative later that year.
He played 17 seasons with the Rockies and was a five-time All-Star, a four-time Silver Slugger and a three-time Golden Glove winner. At the time of his retirement, Helton also held the Rockies records for walks, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI's, games played and extra-base hits.
Helton was a part of the Rockies franchise for 17 of the team's first 21 seasons in the MLB. On Aug. 7, 2014, less than a year after his retirement, Helton became the first-ever Colorado Rockies player to have his jersey retired at Coors Field.
Helton is, undoubtedly, one of the greatest Vols and Rockies of all time. However, he is still trying to get the hang of the biggest challenges of his career — retirement.
"To be honest with you, retirement is hard," Helton said. "Not really having anything to do is not easy — you want to have a focus in life."
Helton admitted that he has not kept up with many teams in college baseball outside of Tennessee over the last 20 years because of the demands of playing 17 years in the major leagues.
While this year's baseball team is not in the same position as that of the Vols during Helton's run, he does see some similarities with the current team.
"We had a good group of guys — we had good pitching" Helton said. "What I've seen out of these guys is they have got some good arms."
Helton's role with this team is limited in some ways as he cannot physically help the players. Helton's role is to help maintain alumni relations, assist with on-campus recruiting and help current players make informed decisions about pursing professional baseball careers.
"This is a way for me to help some of the young guys not only get better, but hopefully go to the next level," Helton said. "So much of the game is mental and I hope to help them out in that part of the game.”
“The game of baseball is learning to deal with that (failing) and coming back strong the next day."
Even with the restrictions, Helton plans on leaving an impact on the program — helping to give him the life focus and purpose he has desired as a retired player.