Todd Helton: Hero

Fans of former University of Tennessee baseball star Todd Helton may want to watch ESPN more closely than usual today. The cable sports giant is airing a "Make A Wish" segment featuring the ex-Vol that is incredibly heart-warming.

Kent and Sue Pointer of Gillette, Wyoming, have a special-needs son named Andrew who must spend nine hours each night and one hour each day on dialysis. Despite severe health problems, the boy is upbeat and fairly active. His passion is the Colorado Rockies, and his favorite player is Todd Helton.

Andrew spends a portion of each day emulating his hero by belting baseballs off a batting tee. Asked what he likes about Helton, Andrew replies: "He's a slugger. He hits the ball far."

Andrew recently underwent spinal fusion surgery which makes merely standing up painful. His parents encourage Andrew by convincing him to stand and count to 17, Helton's uniform number.

Upon learning of Andrew's fondness for the team, the Rockies sent him a DVD in which Helton invites him to Coors Field to "hit some balls off a tee and work on making you a slugger."

A film crew follows the boy as he signs a contract with the Rockies, visits the club's locker room, then meets Helton near home plate for some swings off the batting tee. After belting several balls, Andrew looks up at his hero and poignantly asks: "Am I hitting it hard enough?"

Helton enthusiastically replies: "Of course you are!"

After accompanying Andrew on two trips around the basepaths, the ex-Vol takes him aside and tells the boy he'll try to get a hit for him in that evening's game. Sure enough, Todd delivers on his first at-bat.

It's a story guaranteed to give you a side of Todd Helton you've never seen … and a baseball-sized lump in your throat.

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