"I've been through a lot with Clint -- 14, 15 years I've known him," Helton said. "We've been through some good times and bad times. I didn't think I'd be as emotional as I was when I talked to him."
Beginning Friday night, the Rockies will be playing for Jim Tracy, who was promoted from bench coach to interim manager in an attempt to improve on the 18-28 record going into the opener of a three-game set against the Padres at Coors Field. Tracy's contract runs through the end of the season.
The younger players don't know Hurdle as well as Helton, who came into the organization in 1995, when Hurdle was the Minor League hitting coach. But the Rockies are full of homegrown players who know Hurdle as their only manager.
"He's been with me through the ups and downs and he's always supported me," shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said. "It's a tough day for me, I can't speak for everybody but I'm sure it is, but I think we're a little bit surprised."
Hurdle, who has been with the organization for 16 years and the last seven as Rockies manager, spoke with the players as a group on his departure. The players say they are just as responsible as Hurdle for his dismissal.
"I feel very responsible," Tulowitzki, hitting .227 this season, said. "I haven't played great this season and I take some responsibility. I think if I was playing good, then we would have a couple of more wins. But things happen for a reason and hopefully we can rebound from this and move on."
Helton described Hurdle as taking "the sword for us."
The players all wish Hurdle the best, but now that he's gone, they know they have to move on.
"We got to continue to move forward as a team and play better," right-hander Aaron Cook said. "That's the bottom line, no matter who the manager is."
Tracy has known the players for only 46 games as he was hired in November as the team's bench coach. The players, though, know what Tracy expects of them.
"He expects a lot from his players," Tulowitzki said. "One thing about him is he expects us to go out there and compete, whether we're down by 10 or up by 10."
For Cook, there's already a connection with his new manager because they both hail from Hamilton, Ohio.
"He's very approachable," Cook said. "I think players sometimes want that out of a manager. They want to be able to sit down and talk to him about anything. It doesn't have to be baseball stuff. That's kind of the feeling I get from Tracy. "I talked to him about I had a bad day at home and the kids made me mad. I can just go in there, sit down, just start talking, get this stuff off my chest and get ready for the day."
Tracy managed the Dodgers from 2001-05, winning a National League West title in 2004, and the Pirates from 2006-07.
Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.