Shin-Soo Choo on record walk-off home run
Seven of the players behind Texas Rangers' starter Bartolo Colon on Saturday were still in diapers when Colon made his major league debut in 1997.
Those seven players were all about 10 to 12 years old when Shin-Soo Choo made his MLB debut in 2005.
On Saturday, the elders showed they can still teach the youngsters a thing or two.
Choo, who turns 36 in July, ripped a tenth-inning walk-off home run to left-center field to give the Rangers a 4-3 win over the Royals Saturday afternoon at Globe Life Park. It's his 176th career homer, the most ever by an Asian-born player. He passed Hideki Matsui, who he tied with Friday's first-inning homer.
Colon, who turned 45 on Thursday, held the Royals to three runs — all coming in the third inning — on five hits over seven innings. He didn't factor in the decision but as he has done in eight of his nine starts this season, he gave Texas a chance to win.
"Those guys are unbelievable," said Joey Gallo, who was 1 for 3 and missed a home run by a foot off the top of the right-center field wall in the fourth. "I always say Choo is one of the best hitters I've seen, the way he takes his at-bats every day."
Gallo said he predicted the homer for Choo when he returned to the dugout after top of the 10th.
"I was like, 'He’s gonna hit a bomb right here,'" Gallo said. "You could just feel it with him because his swing has been so good lately. As soon as he hit it, I was like, 'There it is.' Especially, on a day like today, it was hot and kind of long. For Bartolo to keep going out and competing and giving us a chance was huge as well."
Choo downplayed the historic homer but takes pride in the achievement in his 14th season in the big leagues.
"I've played a long time in the big leagues, played healthy, played hard, those numbers are coming," said Choo, who has eight home runs this season. "I’m not really a home run hitter. I never think that way, I always try to stay healthy, try to help the team win the World Series. Every year, I set that goal, to play the season."
Choo compared the moment to hitting for the cycle in 2015, when he became the first Asian-born player to accomplish the feat.
"My dad always told me when I was young, always be first. In sports, people think about the first person. I remember that, I do," he said. "But another Asian player will come along and hit more, so I’m not really thinking about how I’m going to hit a home run."
Choo has been streaking at the plate since adjusting his mindset in the box last week in Chicago. He has been on base in 13 consecutive games and has 14 walks in the past nine.
Delino DeShields, who turns 26 in August, likes to call Choo the babysitter in the lineup because of the age gap. He's studied how Choo sticks to a routine and arrives early to the clubhouse each day. In fact, Choo has typically been the first player to arrive since he signed with Texas before the 2014 season.
"He’s had a nice career," DeShields said. "He works really hard and to be able to accomplish [home run milestone] is pretty tight."
"It's exceptional to be a part of [Choo's record] and just to see the smile on the face," Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. "All our guys recognized that and showed him the appreciation he deserves."
Same goes for Colon, who struck out four and tied Cole Hamels with a club-best fifth quality start. Colon, at 242 wins, is second all-time to Hall of Famer Juan Marichal for wins by a Dominican Republic native. And Colon is four wins from passing Dennis Martinez (245 wins) for the most by an Latin American born pitcher.
"We’re fighting for him too. There is a milestone out there for him and each one of our guys understand that," Banister said.
Both are an inspiration for their younger teammates.
"It’s nice to have these older guys in here and show up. They know how to prepare themselves, that’s for sure," said DeShields, before offering a caveat for Colon. "He doesn’t really need much. Seems like he’s got a rubber arm and could pitch every day if he wanted."