Sunday, 8 May 2016

Bartolo Colon hits first MLB home run as Mets beat Padres

SAN DIEGO — With one magical swing, Bartolo Colon tested the bounds of human comprehension and confirmed, at long last, the existence of a baseball God.

How else to explain the sight of the portly part-time cult hero floating around the bases Saturday night, savoring the end of a 19-year chase for his first major league home run, proving once again that absolutely anything on a baseball field is possible?

“This is probably the biggest moment in my career,” said the former Cy Young Award winner, who pitched the Mets to a 6-3 victory over the Padres.
Of course, what he did in 6 1⁄3 innings on the mound was incidental. As were the other three home runs hit by the Mets, including one by David Wright, who reached base five times.

This was a night to celebrate the absurd beauty of a man with a beer league softball body achieving one of the most difficult individual accomplishments in sports. His last home run had come in the offseason, during the Friday night softball game he’s played in for years with old pals in the Dominican Republic. “It’s one of those things where you come to the ballpark never knowing what you’re going to see,” Wright said. “And you saw it.”

Before ending one of the most entertaining homerless streaks in baseball history, Colon stepped to the plate for the 247th time, a career .089 hitter with two extra-base hits on his ledger. Three pitches later, Padres righthander James Shields became a footnote to history, watching Colon round the bases on his second-inning two-run shot.

In the dugout, manager Terry Collins doubted his own senses. He needed a moment to process it all. “Oh, my God,” he thought. “He hit a home run.”

Until Saturday night, Colon’s at-bats were the stuff of animated GIFs that filled the Internet. His helmet-dislodging pretzel-twists made for perfect fodder. But he has flashed power in batting practice, such as the time he triggered a Twitter firestorm one quiet morning in spring training, when one of his homers took out a distant tree branch. “We all had a hunch that if he were to run into one, it was going to go,” Kevin Plawecki said.

Plawecki was at second when Shields tossed a get-me-over 90-mph meatball over the heart of the plate. Colon tightened the grip on his 34-ounce bat, coiled his hulking body and uncorked a quick swing. “Any time I see a fastball, I swing hard because I’m not a curveball hitter,” he said, disbelief coloring his words. “Once I hit it, I knew it was gone.”

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