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Helling can relate to Texas catcher Molina

When baseball's World Series comes to an end by the time we start thawing the turkey for Thanksgiving, picture this ... if you will. The San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers. Amongst the celebratory pile of black-and-gold Giants uniforms c...

When baseball's World Series comes to an end by the time we start thawing the turkey for Thanksgiving, picture this ... if you will.

The San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers. Amongst the celebratory pile of black-and-gold Giants uniforms can be seen the red-and-blue uniform of Texas catcher Bengie Molina.

Pure fiction, I know. But Molina would have every right to join the dog pile. Because he played almost half the season with the Giants before being traded to Texas, Molina is pretty much guaranteed a World Series ring no matter who wins.

"I'm sure he would much rather be celebrating with the team he is on now," said Rick Helling, one who can relate to the Molina situation.

Helling, the Fargo Shanley High School graduate who pitched in the major leagues for 15 years, received his first ring for not even playing in the Series.

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Helling was in his Fargo home watching the 1997 Series on TV. He saw the Florida Marlins -- the team that traded him to Texas during the season -- spray the champagne after their win over the Cleveland Indians.

"Obviously, I would have liked being on the field celebrating, but I was happy for the Marlins and happy for the friends that I made on that team," said Helling, who told his Fargo friends that the Marlins were going to win the Series. "They thought I was nuts. But the Marlins were hot and they had great camaraderie. Clubhouse chemistry ... believe me, it means a lot."

That chemistry, according to Helling, not only vaulted the Marlins to the 1997 championship but a Series title in 2003 -- one Helling was a part of after being traded from Baltimore during the season.

That same chemistry is a big reason underdogs Texas and San Francisco were able to knock off the Yankees and Phillies last week.

The Giants now have a chance to win their first Series since leaving New York in the 1950s. The Rangers, the only franchise that hadn't won a playoff series until this season, are playing in their first World Series.

That's quite a change since Helling pitched for the Rangers -- which included a 68-51 record in eight seasons and a 20-7 record in 1998. Those numbers helped the right-handed Helling earn more than $15 million during his career.

Today, Helling works out of his home in suburban Minneapolis as the special assistant to the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. It allows the 39-year-old time to spend with his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters.

His family is a big reason he retired in 2007. His family is most likely the reason he might miss watching a World Series game on TV.

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"I'm either running my kids to the football field or the hockey rink," said Helling, who still has a strong connection with the Texas Rangers -- the team that picked him in the first round of the 1992 Major League Baseball amateur draft.

The tie is Darren Oliver, a 40-year-old, left-handed relief pitcher for the Rangers. Oliver and Helling pitched together for a Class AA minor league team in Tulsa in 1993.

"It was my first full year in professional baseball," Helling said. "We became very good friends. We both met our wives in Tulsa and now our wives are best friends.

"The cool thing is we came up with the Rangers together, both left and came back to the Rangers."

So if the Rangers win the Series, Oliver can celebrate with Bengie Molina. And Helling -- even though he's not part of the winning team again -- can celebrate for Oliver.

Schnepf is the Sports Editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

Related Topics: BASEBALL
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