Helton apologizes for arrest, grateful for support
Veteran first baseman ready to move on at camp after addressing incident
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Rockies first baseman Todd Helton said Sunday he is taking steps to make sure he will never repeat the mistakes that led to his arrest on an alcohol-related charge.
Sunday marked the first time Helton, 39, has addressed the media since his Feb. 6 arrest and subsequent charges of driving under the influence with a blood-alcohol level above Colorado's .08 limit. The actual reading will not be released until there is a trial. He is scheduled for a hearing on May 20.
"All I can do now is apologize and ask for forgiveness," Helton said. "I spoke to my teammates earlier today and they were very supportive of me and my situation. I'm very grateful to my wife, my family, my teammates and the Colorado Rockies organization for their support.
"I am determined to learn from my mistakes and I have gotten help."
Helton spoke for 10 minutes at Salt River Fields in the Rockies' theater -- where the team conducts its daily meetings and major presentations to players -- after the first full-squad workout. He did not specify the nature of the help he is receiving. Helton said most of his interaction with the public, both in Denver and since joining the club at Spring Training, has been positive, but he understands that might not always be the case.
"I made my bed, and I'll sleep in it," Helton said. "It's my own fault."
Manager Walt Weiss, coaches and front-office personnel were present for the news conference.
Helton displayed encouraging power at batting practice -- a development acknowledged in delight from hitting-group partners Chris Nelson, Troy Tulowitzki and Tyler Colvin, and earning praise from hitting coach Dante Bichette.
The work on the field gave the Rockies good news about Helton, who is coming off surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right hip. He was limited to 69 games in 2012 and hit .238 with seven home runs and 37 RBIs before being shut down.
This is the final year of Helton's three-year, $33.7 million contract. In January, when Helton began his hitting program and committed publicly to returning for 2013, he did not guarantee playing beyond this year.
The arrest dealt a blow to the reputation of Helton, who has spent his entire career with the Rockies. During the team's unexpected run to the World Series in 2007, many of the young players said Helton was an example of professionalism and a guy who even would take time out of his Major League schedule to call them when they were struggling in the Minor Leagues.
"Part of making a mistake -- a monumental mistake -- is recognizing the mistake and doing all you can to make sure it doesn't happen again," Helton said. "I'm doing that."
Weiss said it was important for Helton to put the issue in the past.
"That's important, that he had an opportunity to put some closure to the whole deal," said Weiss, who was playing for the Rockies when Helton was first called up in 1997. "But like I said right after it happened, Todd built up a lot of goodwill and respect with this club and the community. We've all needed a little grace from time to time.
"He stepped up, faced the music and now it's time to move on."
Most of the Rockies' position players have been working out at the complex for the last week, but Helton had made himself scarce until Saturday, when he worked out with teammates and spent the time afterward in the clubhouse and meeting with the training staff.
Many teammates have texted and called Helton since the incident, but that didn't spare him any ribbing when he arrived.
"You walk in the clubhouse and it's a tough environment there -- they get on you pretty good," Helton said. "It's their way of showing support."
Helton spoke in front of a white wall on which several of the team's core values -- such as "Trust," "Accountability," "Integrity," "Responsibility" and "Character" -- were printed around the Rockies' logo. Club officials have said in the days since the arrest that despite the embarrassment of the incident, Helton still personifies the traits that guide the Rockies.
Helton said he briefly thought about retiring but that if he wasn't going to let hip surgery drive him to quit, he wasn't going to let this incident make him step away. Helton also said he would be involved in spreading the message about the dangers of drinking and driving.
"Part of that process is ongoing every day, hopefully that I'll, one, not forget it, and take all the right steps to do all I can to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.