By Joe Rini
What will Bartolo Colon do for an encore? Hit two home runs in one game? How about stealing home? Perhaps leaping a tall building in a single bound?
With a league leading 49 home runs through 32 games, the first place Mets are on pace to smash the franchise record of 200 home runs set in 2006. However, unless one of the Amazins channels his inner Bill Mazeroski and hits a championship winning home run in the ninth inning of game seven of the World Series this October, the most memorable home run of the season may have been struck by Colon this past weekend.
Colon, who turns 43 on May 24, became the oldest player in baseball history to hit his first major league home run when he drove a James Shields pitch into the leftfield seats for a two-run homer in the Mets 6-3 victory over the Padres in San Diego on May 7. Having spent the vast majority of his career in the land of the designated hitter, otherwise known as the American League, Colon hadn’t had a base hit in nine years before joining the Mets as a free agent in 2014 at the untender age of 40. Despite a .083 batting average since joining the Mets, the rotund righty’s at bats have been as entertaining as his pitching has been effective (he’s the team’s leader in wins since 2014) with flying helmets and bats held as he’s run to first base, along with the occasional base hit.
Speaking after the game, manager Terry Collins said, “You’re just so happy for him. He’s such a pro. He’s such a good guy. The time he’s been here, he’s such a leader for everybody. We all know he’s an entertaining guy at home plate, so to have him ambush something like that and hit a homer, it’s pretty special.”
Commenting afterwards through an interpreter, Colon said, “It means a lot. It’s something that I still can’t believe until now.”
While Mike Piazza’s home run after September 11 will probably always be the most significant home run in Mets history, Colon’s homer, like a surprise birthday party on New Year’s Eve where the guest of honor finds out he has hit the lottery on the same night, may have been the most joyful in Mets history – unless, of course, he hits that championship winning home run Mazeroski style in October.
The Mets are in the midst of an eleven game road trip that has seen them split the first six games and edge into first place in the NL East by 1⁄2 game. Since opening the season with a thud in his 2016 debut, Steven Matz has excelled and picked up his fifth consecutive win in the Mets 4-2 victory over the Dodgers on May 9. Matt Harvey gave the Mets cause for hope as he pitched his best game of season with 10 strikeouts in six innings as the Mets topped the Padres 4-3 on Sunday.
After four games in Los Angeles, the 20-12 Mets play Suffern’s Walt Weiss and his Colorado Rockies in Denver before returning to Citi Field on May 17 to renew their rivalry with the Nationals and NL batting leader, Daniel Murphy.