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[9/12/2013] Yakult Swallows: Wladimir Balentien News and Notes

by on Sep.12, 2013 @ 6:30 pm, under NPB

Balentien has hit at least one home run against all eleven NPB teams this season.  He has hit home runs off forty-five different pitchers.  Sixteen home runs have come between the 1st and 3rd innings, while twenty have come in or after the 7th.  He has hit seventeen home runs with two strikes.

Source: Sponichi 9/12/2013

Balentien is on pace to hit sixty-five home runs.

Source: Sponichi 9/12/2013

A Masato Oda caught Balentien's fifty-fifth home run on Wednesday night.  He traded the ball for an autographed bat.

"I cannot believe it," said Oda.  "I did not think the ball would end up in right since Coco generally hits his home runs to left.  The bat will become an heirloom."

Source: Sponichi 9/12/2013, Daily Sports 9/12/2013

Balentien got the nickname Coco because the shape of his head reminded people of a coconut.

He first started playing baseball when he was six -- he actually wanted to play soccer but instead went with baseball because his friend also played the sport.

Source: Sports Hochi 9/12/2013Sponichi 9/12/2013

The Swallows felt Balentien could succeed in Japan because they heard he was open-minded and willing to listen.

Source: Daily Sports 9/12/2013

Hensley Meulens on Balentien:

I know Balentien for quite some time.  We are from a small island and he about five minutes away from me by car.  We first met over ten years ago, I think back when he was sixteen and sign a contract with the Mariners.  I run a baseball academy in Curacao and there are no training facilities during the off-season so many players practice there between November and January.  He was in the mix with other players like Andruw Jones.

When he was under contract back then, people were saying he was the next Andruw Jones.  I think that put a lot of pressure on him.  Jones and Balentien are two completely different kind of players.  But he tried his best to become like him.  He set a new rookie league record with sixteen home runs and he was hitting over twenty home runs a year at double-A and triple-A.  He could not make it to Majors because he was inconsistent and then he went to Japan and learned a lot of things, like pitch patterns, and blossomed.

When I heard he was going to Japan, I gave him a lot of advice.  I was there for three years.  The most important thing is to become familiar with the culture.  I told him to study Japanese, try all kinds of Japanese food, and become friends with teammates.  In March this year, we were on the same WBC team as manager and player.  We still communicate frequently.

Balentien is a much better hitter now than when he played in the Majors.  That is because he is capable and works hard.  As someone from the same island, it makes me proud that he was able to tie the record.

Source: Sponichi 9/12/2013

Portions of Wednesday's post-game interview not included in the previous update:

What is the difference between fifty-five and fifty-six?

There is a big difference.  Three people reached fifty-five [before me] and none were able to get to fifty-six.  It will be special [home run] if I can get it at twenty-nine.

You hit [fifty-five] of Otake, a pitcher you have hit well against.

I think it is a gift from God.

Is this record a big deal?

Japan is in the top two.  That is where I tied the record and it is special.

More eyes will be focused on you.

Honestly, after hitting number fifty-five, the tension I felt has lifted.  I think things will go back to normal starting tomorrow.

Source: Sponichi 9/12/2013