On a warm May day in 1973, the town of Altamira in the Puerto Plata province of the Dominican Republic became the site of what would become an auspicious historical event: the birth of Bartolo Colón.
From a young age, Bartolo displayed a work ethic that would help shape the course of his professional career in baseball. Young Bartolo worked alongside his father as they harvested coffee beans and various fruits. By the time Bartolo was 14, his strength was far more developed than the average 14-year-old. Bartolo really was never average, even from a young age.
“From childhood, he was very strong, he was capable of pulping up to 1,000 crates of coffee beans in a day” his father, Miguel Colon recalled in a 2015 interview with the New York Times’ Dan Barry.
Bartolo became known not just for his coffee bean pulping prowess (say that three times in a row in your head really fast), but he also was known to knock fruit from trees by throwing rocks directly at them.
Imagine doing this every day. Imagine the level of accuracy he must have developed at such a young age. Imagine Bartolo Colon smiling as the coconuts and mangoes yielded to his immaculate accuracy and power.
In short order these feats of strength caught the attention of the right people within the Dominican Republic’s baseball community, and Bartolo ended up signing with Cleveland in 1993. Note: Cleveland believed Bartolo was 18, not 20 and while Bartolo’s feats of strength were notable, I’m sure someone aired some grievances over this at some point.
Bartolo made his MLB debut for Cleveland in 1997. It didn’t exactly go well (four runs in five innings). Bartolo’s first season in Cleveland was the prototypical rookie season: flashes of brilliance marred with long bouts of shaky confidence as he posted a forgettable 4-7 record with a 5.65 ERA.
But by 1998, Bartolo posted a robust 14-9 record and was selected to the first of his 4 career All-Star games. In June of 1998, Bartolo set an unofficial record for throwing 20-pitches in an at bat (I’m smiling here because it ended with Bartolo striking the batter out). Big Sexy was officially here.
Speaking of smiles, if this MLB tweet doesn’t make you smile, we need to buy you 100 milk cartons to put your picture on because your soul is missing.
Since then, Big Sexy has gone on to capture the hearts and minds of baseball fans worldwide. His endurance is a thing of legend. The facial expressions he makes when striking out at the plate should be hung in the finest museums around the world. The video of Big Sexy trotting around the bases after hitting his first MLB home run in 2016 should be archived by NASA and the Library of Congress.
Big Sexy seems to defy and confound time in the most unconventional of ways. Over his two-decade career, Big Sexy has arrived to a few spring trainings comically out of shape. There was also the time he underwent a controversial (to the bigwigs at MLB) stem-cell treatment that appears to have resuscitated his right shoulder (something that had been nagging him since his 2005 Cy Young season). The 2012 50-game suspension for a positive PED test was a low point for Big Sexy. There’s really nothing sexy about not being able to do what you’re best at.
Big Sexy will turn 45 this May. Let that sink in for a moment. FORTY-FIVE YEARS OF AGE. Some of you reading this have never experienced an MLB season without Big Sexy being part of a roster.
Will he survive spring training in Surprise, AZ to earn a big-league spot? If you’re a Rangers fan – actually, if you’re a fan of baseball, period – you’re pulling for this to happen.
Nobody knows how effective Big Sexy can be for the 2018 Rangers. But if there’s something we’ve seen with Big Sexy in his tenure with 10 other MLB teams, it’s that as big as he is, he brings a well-rounded (albeit unconventional) approach to baseball.
The 2018 Texas Rangers aren’t projected to have a successful season, but if Big Sexy makes the roster it should provide us with some much needed smiles. And I don’t mean this to sound like Big Sexy is only good for smiles, if he makes the roster he’ll be a force on the mound.
We should hope that there’s enough juice for one more season. One more run. One more Big Sexy smile after dumbfounding a batter more than half his age.