Colon on HR: 'Don't even know how to explain it'

deGrom: 'That was the greatest thing I've ever seen'

May 7th, 2023

A version of this story was first published on May 7, 2016, the night of Colon’s legendary homer. All players and coaches are listed with their roles at that time.

Bartolo Colon pitched in parts of 21 Major League seasons and won an American League Cy Young Award, but he is perhaps most famous for his one home run, which came with the Mets in a 6-3 win against the Padres at Petco Park on May 7, 2016. He was 42 years old at the time, making him the oldest player to hit his first ball over the fence. Given his reputation both as a beloved clubhouse figure and a portly whirlwind at the plate, the reactions to Colon's homer tell the tale as well as any list of facts.

Below is the narrative of Colon's first career home run that was published the night it occurred, which means that all of the reactions are from when the memory was clearest in the minds of the witnesses. Though the story actually begins in Spring Training of that year, where assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler had worked with Colon the past two years on his hitting …

Roessler: Oh, he works. He takes pride in it. He works his butt off. Out of his five-day cycle, he probably hits three out of the five days, and probably takes 40 to 50 swings a day. He's a strong guy. He's got tremendous hand strength. When he squares it up, it goes. So we're not surprised he hit a home run. We're surprised he hit it in a game.

Mets manager Terry Collins: This guy last year took [his hitting] serious. He went out and became not just a "go up to home plate, stand there and swing and miss." As I've said before, pitchers, if they can help themselves a little bit, they can win some games.

Third baseman David Wright: You watch him take BP and he's got very good hand-eye coordination. You see him hit some home runs in BP and you think to yourself, "What would happen if he ever did it in a game?" And to do it here with as many Mets fans as were here, the 7 Line Army was out there, the place just went nuts. It's one of those things where you come to the ballpark never knowing what you're going to see, and we saw it.

Roessler: I think everybody's ecstatic for him. He had a zero in that column for his career. To have played that long, for him to be able to hit that, it's great. Everybody's happy for him. That's what was so fun to me was all the pitchers' reactions.

Colon was 0-for-9 on the season when he stepped to the plate with a man on second base in the second inning. Colon took a ball and a strike, before Padres pitcher James Shields grooved a 91-mph fastball in the zone.

Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom: I said to Steven [Matz], "He could hit it out of here." I didn't really call it … but I said if he hooks one here, he could get it out. It was great."

Shields: It was a fastball, man.

Collins: My first thought was, "Oh, please, tell me he didn't hit a homer."

Colon: Anytime I see a fastball, I swing hard, because I'm not a curveball hitter.

The ball traveled on an arc to left field, where it ricocheted into the hands of Jimmy Zurn, a U.S. history teacher and varsity baseball coach at La Mirada (Calif.) High School. Zurn was born and raised in California, but his parents are from Buffalo, N.Y., making him a lifelong Mets fan. He was sitting in the fourth row with his wife, Sarah, and children Ryan (age 5) and Ben (3).

Padres left fielder Melvin Upton Jr.: I thought I had a chance. But you saw something you didn't really see in this park, is that the ball stayed up a little longer than normal. It happens usually in the daytime. But the sun stayed down and the ball stayed up there longer.

Colon: Once I hit it, I knew it was gone. The ball in San Diego travels well.

Zurn: It kind of bounced off the guy in front of me, popped up and hit me right in the hands. I didn't catch it clean. It bounced up and I handed it to my kid. I'm a diehard Mets fan. I'm a baseball fan. I'm a big baseball buff. But I didn't realize it was his first home run. Incredible. But it literally was a shot in the dark. My brother-in-law got these seats and when I sat down I said, "Wow, we're in home run territory."

Mets officials tracked down Zurn, exchanging the ball for a chance to meet Colon and other players after the game. Meanwhile, Colon trotted around the bases, taking over 30 seconds. Catcher Kevin Plawecki also scored on the play.

Plawecki: That's what it's all about. It was just having fun in moments like that, bringing a lot of smiles to a lot of faces. It was just fun to be a part of.

Collins: He probably worked on [his trot] beforehand. He got around there OK. I didn't want him to hurt himself, pull anything. That's a long way to go.

Wright: That might be one of the slower home run trots you're ever going to see. He enjoyed it, certainly, and we enjoyed it.

The Mets did indeed, scrambling out of the dugout as Colon rounded the bases. Then they gave him the silent treatment before mobbing him in the dugout.

Collins: Oh, they went wild. I've never seen anybody go wild like that. Of course then they had to rush out and give them the silent treatment for a minute. He had a big smile on his face when he came back, as he should.

Wright: That's one of the older tricks in the books. We need to come up with something better.

Second baseman Neil Walker: We all kind of said, "What would we do if Bartolo hit a home run?" That made everybody's career to witness that.

deGrom: That was the greatest thing I've ever seen. Everybody just loved it.

Colon: I don't even know how to explain it. I'm very thankful. I thank God for this amazing moment. I wasn't expecting it. It means a lot. It's something that I still can't believe until now.