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


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.