Facing the Padres on Saturday night, Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon slugged the first home run of his 19-year career. It was a majestic 365-foot shot down the left field line at Petco Park off of a James Shields fastball.
One knew it was a big deal simply from the excitement in SNY broadcaster Gary Cohen’s voice. Colon, a veteran of 19 seasons, turns 43 years old later this month. He’s taken 249 plate appearances in his career, 145 of them coming within the last three years with the Mets. With the exception of 2002, when he spent half the season with the Montreal Expos, Colon didn’t take regular at-bats until he was 40 years old.
Colon’s lack of hitting prowess has often been a punchline, even here. We spoke of it as if we would never see him hit a home run during a regular season game. We settled for a batting practice home run, and a line drive foul ball. And yesterday, Christmas came early.
This is why pitchers hitting makes baseball so fun. We expect a bona fide slugger who can’t field at any position to have skill at the plate. Nelson Cruz or Prince Fielder slamming a baseball 450 feet isn’t novel. Colon homering is novel. How about the time in 2012 when then-Phillies ace Cole Hamels and Giants pitcher Matt Cain traded home runs off of each other?
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Pitchers make outs approximately 85 percent of the time they come to the plate. The other 15 percent makes it all worth it, as does the half a percent chance that the pitcher hits one out of the park. When we go to the ballpark, there’s always the chance we’ll see something that’s never been done before. During Colon’s 473rd career start — most among active players — he did something he’d never done before in his career.