Bartolo Colon swings hard, so you figured if he ever caught a pitch just right it might go out. Well, it finally happened in the second inning Saturday night when Colon, 17 days shy of his 43rd birthday, connected against James Shields in the 226th at-bat of his career.
This wasn’t a “run for the roses,’’ as much as it was a 31-second jog around the bases, long enough for the Mets to vacate the bench, fans back home to text their friends with a “you’ll never believe what just happened,” message, and researchers to discover he became the oldest player to hit his first career homer.
Colon’s blast – and he did crush it – was one of four the Mets hit on the night. Yoenis Cespedes hit the first in the first inning, and David Wright and Michael Conforto went back-to-back in the ninth as the Mets regained their power stroke to beat the Padres, 6-3, and Colon won the 221st game of his splendid career.
Incidentally, the Mets also have the oldest player ever to hit a homer in Julio Franco at 47.
This is Colon’s third year with the Mets. He was originally signed to pick up the innings void when Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery. Colon won 15 and 14 games, respectively, in his first two years and worked over 190 innings each time.
Colon won over the hearts of Mets’ fans, not to mention his teammates, with his work ethic and outwardly unashamed signs of enjoying himself on the field. Colon also won everybody’s respect last year when he volunteered to pitch out of the bullpen during the playoffs.
Colon’s behind-the-back flip to first base last year in MIami was a sense of comic relief, but Saturday’s homer came at a time when the struggling Mets’ offense most needed a jolt.
However, the Mets didn’t get Colon to rake. They got him to pitch, and once again he came up with a quality outing, giving up three runs in 6.2 innings with five strikeouts. It marked the fourth time in six starts this year Colon (3-1) has gone at least six innings, and the 50th time in 68 starts with the Mets he’s gone that far.
Those, however, are numbers. He means far more than stats to this franchise. To watch his teammates mob him in the dugout, to hear how they love to tease him and enjoy his company, is a reflection how much they like and admire him. That’s a sign of respect not many players get to enjoy.
Colon has been a joy to watch during his short time here. He’ll go down as one of the most beloved Mets.