By Matt Citak
Making it in Major League Baseball is no easy feat. Of the hundreds of players that get selected each year in the MLB Draft, only a small percentage end up actually making it to the majors.
Once in the majors, a player must consistently prove, year in and year out, that he belongs there. No major league team is going to pay a player millions of dollars each season just to struggle every time he steps on to the field.
This is only part of the reason why Bartolo Colon has put together such an impressive MLB career.
Colon made his MLB debut for the Cleveland Indians all the way back on April 4, 1997. To put that into perspective, Yankees star rookie Gleyber Torres was less than four months old when the Dominican-American pitcher stepped onto the mound for the first time in the majors.
The big right-hander’s resume isn’t glowing with a long list of accolades. Throughout the years, Colon has earned just four All-Star appearances. The peak of his career came in the 2005 season, when he won the American League Cy Young Award after going 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 33 starts.
Over two decades after making the first start of his career, Colon is still wowing fans around the league. The 45-year-old is in the middle of his 21st season in Major League Baseball, and has shown no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Colon has pitched in 23 games this season (with 21 starts), totaling 130.1 innings.
Yes, you read that correctly. The 45-year-old, who is four years older than MLB’s next oldest player (Fernando Rodney), is still somehow going out to the mound every fifth day and giving his team, the Texas Rangers, a solid chunk of innings almost every time.
Not bad for an old man.
While his 2018 numbers aren’t great (6-10 with a 5.18 ERA and 1.27 WHIP), the fact that he is still able to be a somewhat productive pitcher at the highest level at his age is truly special.
On Tuesday night, Colon reached a monumental milestone, one that he has been eying for years. Colon pitched seven innings, allowing four runs on eight hits on his way to earning his 246th career win.
246 may seem like a random number to most, but to Bartolo, that number has immense sentimental value.
With the win, Colon finally moved past Dennis Martinez for the most victories all time by a Latin American-born pitcher.
It was by no means an easy road for Colon. At several different points over the last few years, it looked as if the Dominican Republic native’s MLB career was coming to an end. But each time, the right-hander stayed patient and waited for his opportunity to prove that he still belongs in the majors.
On Tuesday, he was finally rewarded for all of his hard work.
Always a fan favorite, “Big Sexy” (as he has come to be known) had already solidified his spot in the MLB record books.
Early in the 2016 season while a member of the New York Mets, the 42-year-old Colon became the oldest player in MLB history to hit his first career home run when he blooped a James Shields fastball over the left field fence at Petco Park. SportsNet New York’s play-by-play man Gary Cohen said it best when he shouted, “The impossible has happened!” as the hefty right-hander rounded the bases.
No matter what team you root for, everyone around the country could not help but smile watching Colon make his first and only trip around the bases of his long MLB career.
As great as that moment was, it does not compare to Tuesday night.
While he may make it seem effortless, Bartolo has worked extremely hard over the better part of three decades to get to where he is now. And to finally see him reach the milestone he has been after for so many years, I couldn’t wipe the ear-to-ear grin off of my face if I tried.
So here’s to you, Bartolo. You continue to impress us each and every time you step onto the mound, and you deserve all the praise in the world for refusing to stop living your dream.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.