Bartolo, My Hero

Now that the reality of Monday morning has set in, I can take stock of the highlight of the weekend: New York Mets pitcher Bartolo Colón hit the first home run of his 19 year career.

USP MLB: ATLANTA BRAVES AT NEW YORK METS S BBN USA NY

Smile for the camera, Big Sexy. Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports 

There’s nothing I can say here that hasn’t already been said.

He’s an unlikely hero. Overweight, middle-aged. Ironically nicknamed “Big Sexy.” His batting stance lacks awareness of technique. He hunkers over the plate and swings so hard he typically loses his batting helmet.

He’s been a bit of a running punchline and early in the 2015 season he managed a better batting average than a few of the (then LOL)Mets’ position players—including a spectacularly lucky looking RBI double against the Marlins. It’s like he doesn’t expect it… nobody else does either. And just look at the child-like glee on his face as he runs.

bartolo-colon

Basically me.

Bartolo is all of us. He represents why we love baseball so much. He defies expectations. He’s the underdog at bat. He’s the kid who elicits groans from the other kids in PE because they know he’s going to strike out and lose the game for the team. But then he gets up and rips one to left field.

I’m not saying let’s put him in the 2016 Home Run Derby or anything, but I’m certainly willing to keep the celebration over this hit running until his next start. And he deserves it. First homer in a 19 year career. He’s proof that it’s never too late to accomplish a dream.

As someone essentially starting life over in my mid-30s (and who will be competing for jobs with people in their early to mid-20s), I’m a bit sensitive to this concept. And right now, Big Sexy is my #1 hero.

I’ve got a home run in me too. We all do. Bartolo is proof of that.

 

 

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The Dark Knight of Hope

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Ah yes, baseball is back and all is right in the world.

All of the slates have been wiped clean. The bad memories from last season are forgotten (mostly) and those who were at the top are back on equal footing with the rest of the bunch.

Fans and analysts have spent the spring watching minor league prospects show their skills to the big guys in hopes of getting the call-up. Spring is also the stage for returns, whether it be a post-PED suspension redemption, or a chance to see how a recently rehabbed elbow fares against live batters. No player’s return has been more closely watched, and perhaps more hyped, than that of New York Mets right handed pitcher, Matt Harvey.

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

Dubbed “The Dark Knight of Gotham” by Sports Illustrated in 2013, Harvey was touted as the savior for the joke of a franchise. That is, until he tore a ligament in his elbow and was scheduled for the dreaded Tommy John surgery. He would be out for over a year. Just when Mets fans had gotten their hopes up for salvation, they would be doomed to go on without him.

Harvey stayed relevant in the media, as any true New York athlete (and playboy) should. Always impeccably dressed, he attended Rangers games with his model girlfriend to see his good friend Henrik Lundqvist tend the goal and he caused controversy at Yankee Stadium for being at Subway Series rival Derek Jeter’s final game. Whenever interviewed he would mention how healthy he was feeling, perhaps indicating he might return before 2015. What a tease.

And so the baseball world watched with bated breath as he pitched to live batters for the first time in the regular season. April 9th, 2015 became Harvey Day. He was back on the mound, facing the preseason favorites for the pennant (and World Series), the Washington Nationals.

His stats are now famous: he pitched 6 scoreless innings, allowing 4 hits and getting 9 strikeouts. The Mets won 6-3.

It’s easy to dismiss the Mets as a joke. Perhaps it’s because of their proximity to the Yankee dynasty. The Mets are like the doofy kid brother that lives in the shadow of their handsome prom king-class president-valedictorian-varsity letterman older brother.

But the fans. Mets fans are hopeful. Mets fans are naively optimistic. And it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best parts about sports fandom in general. Every year is a fresh start. Every year is full of possibility. Every year could be the year.

But this year feels a bit different. Mets fans are singing the same “this is our year” tune, but there’s a renewed sense of hope. It seems that Harvey has been the catalyst for this. The doofy brother just got a movie montage makeover. Morale is high. The team seems to be bolstered by his return and the fans are, well, fanatical.

Will he be the one to save the Mets? We’ll have to wait and see. But it sure does look like dawn on the horizon.