Todd Helton says he needs Tennessee baseball as much as it needs him.
Stepping away from a game near and dear to the heart after decades on the diamond can be a shock to the system. With that in mind, the 17-year Major League veteran is back with the Tennessee Volunteers as coach Dave Serrano hired Helton to be on staff as the director of player development on Jan. 27.
"Selfishly this is helping me as well, getting out here and being around these guys," Helton said Friday.
Helton, who mashed .407 with 20 home runs and 92 runs batted in his junior season with the Volunteers, says he misses the competition more than anything.
The 1995 Baseball America National Player of the Year said Serrano and Tennessee have been accomodating to Helton's scheduling, allowing him to work three hours a week or seven straight days, whichever suits his availability.
"To be honest with you, retirement is hard," Helton said. "I was mentally and physically prepared to retire for three years. I knew I was going to retire at the end of the 2013 season. To be honest with you, it's hard not really having anything to do. It's not easy."
Last season, the Vols finished 29-28 and reached the Southeastern Conference tournament before being eliminated by Louisiana State. Helton said the players are approaching him, not being mesmerized.
"I think they're realizing I'm just a regular guy," said Helton, who hit 369 career home runs in the Major Leagues. "Just another baseball player is what I am. I think they're starting to realize that, and they're starting to joke around a little bit more."
The Big Orange opens its season up at Memphis on Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. Eastern. Its first home game is versus Norfolk State on March 3 at 6 p.m. Eastern.
We apologize if the audio is difficult to decipher. Pressure washing at Lindsey Nelson Stadium was taking place in the background.