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Baseball: Former Ute Bret Helton excited to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates

Baseball: Former Ute Bret Helton excited to be drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates


Day 2 of the MLB Draft, and Utah’s Bret Helton was simply going about his day. The Ute pitcher had just concluded his junior campaign in Salt Lake City a little over two weeks ago, and was back home in Colorado Springs to enjoy some much needed time for relaxation.

Helton is one of Utah’s better pitchers, and has been in talks with Major League Baseball teams all over the country leading up to the 2015 MLB Draft just a few days ago. But because he had a good idea of where he was going to possibly be drafted — which was Day 3, in his mind — Helton wasn’t paying much attention to the draft on the second day.

“It was so funny, I was kind of convinced that I was going to go Day 3 instead of Day 2, so I wasn’t really expecting it,” Helton said. “I talked to pretty much every team but there were a few teams, in particular, that were increasingly more interested than the Pirates were. And I really hadn’t even talked to [the Pirates] that much.”

After receiving a phone call that tipped him off that he might be drafted on the second day in the ninth round, however, Helton’s mind ran to a million different places. He called to his family and ran to the kitchen, where they all watched the TV in anticipation of the pitcher being picked.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates were on the clock in the ninth, it was Helton’s name that appeared on the screen as the 277th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. Helton was the only Ute drafted this year.

“When it happened I just got so excited,” Helton said. “It was almost like an instant relief because the anticipation was crazy. It was just pure excitement after that.”

Just like that, the dream of becoming a professional pitcher was now a reality for Helton, and that reality came real quick. On Thursday morning, just two days after being drafted, Helton was on a flight heading to Pittsburgh to work out some final kinks in his contract and to get acclimated with the organization and area.

Before heading to the city to do some exploring, Helton mentioned that this was the first time that he has even come close to the East Coast, and was impressed with the Steel City at first glance.

“I’m just kind of looking at everything in awe,” Helton said. “The buildings are crazy, you can just tell it’s a very historic city with the bridges and the water. My hotel is right next to the baseball field; the baseball field is unbelievable. Everything we drive by is a totally different feel than anything I’m used to.”

While Helton will need some time to get used to the new environment, his contract can’t wait. After being looked over by the necessary eyes, the deal is nearly complete and Helton is just hours away from being a Pirate. The pitcher claims he still has to pinch himself every once in awhile to make sure he isn’t dreaming.

“I keep going through waves of reality hitting me,” Helton said. “When it first happened and then a couple other times, and especially now being in Pittsburgh, it’s pretty real now. It keeps getting better.”

As a Ute, Helton had an up-and-down career, finishing with an overall record of 4-12 with just a single save, but he showed flashes of potential that ultimately caught Pittsburgh’s eye. Just in this last season, Helton registered a win over No. 6 Arizona State, as well as putting together strong outings against No. 22 Oregon State and Oregon.

Though the soon-to-be Pirate is about to move on to the next step in his baseball career, Helton claims he will never forget the school he got to represent for three years in Utah.

“Obviously I had people from my hometown who were really excited, but it almost didn’t even compare to the people in Utah,” Helton said of his support. “Everyone was so supportive the whole time and even through my season, it was more than I ever could have imagined.

“But the stuff I’ve been feeling recently, especially from over [in Utah] makes me incredibly proud just to be a part of the Ute family, just because I know how much it means to them and especially me now. It’s great to be a part of that and just kind of feelin’ the love from everybody.”

To the casual sports fan, being drafted may seem like a simple thing, but the life of a minor-league ballplayer can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. Helton now enters that world, but the pitcher feels prepared to tackle this challenge and get to work for the Pirate organization.

“I’m up for it, I’m here and I’m ready,” Helton said. “I was sitting at home, and I was like, ‘I want to get out there now, I don’t want to waste any time.’ I’m here, and ready to get to work.”

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