Bartolo Colon’s success was built by pulping coffee beans and throwing rocks at coconuts

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Bartolo Colon is the oldest guy in the majors and looks like anything but an athlete. But he’s still getting the job done, and today there is an in-depth story by Dan Barry of the New York Times about what makes Bartolo Bartolo.

So much of it, of course, is about the guy being an genuine athlete, in ways that you or I can’t possibly comprehend. We see the big guy out there and, compared to some of the younger and more fit and trim players, he may not look like much of one. It’s easy to forget that a guy like that is superhuman in just about every way imaginable, though we so often do. Thus we joke and stand agape at his accomplishments.

But in some ways his background isn’t like every athlete’s. Certainly not like those from the U.S. Things we learn about Colon today:

He comes from a hillside village on the outskirts of Altamira called El Copey, which has one main road and dozens of squat houses under zinc roofs and coconut trees. Local lore attributes his strong legs to climbing trees, and his strong wrists to the childhood chores of picking coffee beans and turning the crank of a de-pulping machine.

“From childhood, he was very strong,” his father, Miguel Valerio Colon, recalled. “He was capable of pulping up to 1,000 crates of coffee beans in a day.”

Sometimes, while transporting bags of beans for his father’s produce business, young Bartolo would park his pet donkey, Pancho, beside a sloping lot that served as a baseball field and play a few innings with other children, using balls made of cloth. . . . If the de-pulping machine built up his arms, then throwing rocks to knock fruit from trees developed his accuracy. “Throwing at coconuts and mangoes,” Colon said. “But the coconut was the most difficult.”

A far cry from traveling leagues.

And a great read.

Astros clinch AL West for third consecutive year

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For the third consecutive season, the Astros are AL West champions. The ‘stros clinched the division on Sunday afternoon with a convincing 13-5 win over the Angels. They were backed by three homers from leadoff man George Springer and individual homers from Alex Bregman and Aledmys Díaz.

Springer has the 22nd three-homer game in baseball this season. He’s the first Astro to hit three homers in a game since Yordan Álvarez last month, on August 10.

Justin Verlander lasted five innings in Sunday’s start, yielding two runs on six hits and a pair of walks with five strikeouts. The right-hander is arguably the frontrunner for the AL Cy Young Award, now 20-6 with a 2.53 ERA and a 288/42 K/BB ratio in 217 innings on the year. Verlander is 12 strikeouts shy of the 300-strikeout milestone and six strikeouts short of 3,000 for his career. If the Astros stay on schedule, Verlander would pitch the second-to-last game of the regular season against the Angels.

Sunday’s win marked No. 102 on the season for the Astros. The franchise record is 103 wins set last year. With six games remaining, it seems likely the Astros will set a new record.

The Astros and Yankees both won on Sunday, meaning the Astros remain a half-game ahead in the race for home field advantage. The No. 1 seed will also have the privilege of playing the Wild Card winner, which is down to the Athletics, Rays, and Indians.