Balentien with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows
|Tokyo Yakult Swallows – No. 4|
|Outfielder / Designated hitter|
July 2, 1984 |
|MLB: September 4, 2007, for the Seattle Mariners|
|NPB: April 12, 2011, for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows|
|Runs batted in||52|
(through 2011 Season)
|Runs batted in||435|
|Career highlights and awards|
Wladimir Ramon Balentien (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈvladimir balənˈtin]; born July 2, 1984) is a Curaçaoan-Dutch professional baseball outfielder with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). He previously played in Major League Baseball for the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds.
In 2013, he broke the NPB single-season home run record of 55, previously held by professional baseball's all-time home run leader Sadaharu Oh, American Tuffy Rhodes and Venezuelan Alex Cabrera. Balentien would finish the season with 60 home runs.
Balentien was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Mariners in 2000. He spent his first five professional seasons in the minor leagues, playing for the Arizona League Mariners, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Inland Empire 66ers, San Antonio Missions, and Tacoma Rainiers, before being called up in September 2007.
In 2007, Balentien was selected to the All-Star Futures Game in San Francisco, a result of his .328 batting average, 20 home runs, and 66 runs batted in by that point. He was called up to the Mariners on September 4, 2007, and played that very night against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Balentien pinch-hit for José Guillén in the 8th inning, and hit a two-run double in his first major league at-bat.
Balentien was invited to spring training with the Mariners in 2008 and signed a one-year deal with the team. However, the starting job in right field went to Brad Wilkerson, and Balentien was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma on March 24. When Wilkerson and first baseman Greg Norton were designated for assignment on April 30, Wladimir and Rainiers teammate Jeff Clement were called up to the big leagues for a game in Cleveland against the Indians.
Facing Indians starter Cliff Lee in the top of the 7th inning, Balentien hit a three-run homer over the right field fence to end Lee's streak of 27 scoreless innings pitched. His homer was one of only 12 given up by Lee in 2008.
On July 25, 2009, Balentien was designated for assignment by the Mariners after struggling to make consistent contact. He hit .213 with 4 home runs and 13 RBIs in 155 at bats to that point in the season. Michael Saunders was called up to take his place on the big league roster.
On July 29, 2009 the Mariners traded Balentien to the Cincinnati Reds for reliever Robert Manuel. In his final game with the Reds against Pittsburgh Pirates on October 2, Balentien hit the longest home run of that major league season, midway up the upper deck in left field with an estimated distance of 500 feet.
Nippon Professional Baseball
On August 29, 2013, Balentien hit his 51st home run of the 2013 season. With over a month of the regular season remaining at that date, many speculated that Balentien could break the Nippon Professional Baseball league season record. The record of 55 home runs in a single season was originally set by Sadaharu Oh in 1964 and later tied by Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera. A "Coco Meter" was added to Tokyo Swallows homepage so that fans could track his progress through the remainder of the season. On September 10, 2013, Balentien hit his 55th home run. He subsequently broke the record, hitting his 56th and 57th home runs, on September 15, 2013 at home against the Hanshin Tigers.
Late in the 2013 season, it was revealed that NPB had secretly introduced a livelier baseball, resulting in a marked increase in home runs league-wide. Three-term NPB commissioner Ryozo Kato was forced to resign over the scandal when the juiced baseball was revealed.
- Berry, Adam (September 15, 2013). "Balentien breaks Oh's Japanese home run record". MLB.com. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- "Yakult Swallows sign Wladimir Balentien to 1 yr deal worth 65M yen". 2010. Retrieved 2011-10-31.
- "Aug 28th 2013, vs Chunichi". 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- "Wladimir Balentien aiming to become Japan's home run king". 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- "Coco Meter - Yakult Swallows official website". 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-30.
- "Wladimir Balentien ties HR mark". ESPN. September 11, 2013. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- Armstrong, Jim (September 15, 2013). "Wladimir Balentien Breaks Sadaharu Oh's Single-Season Home Run Record in Japan". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 15, 2013.
- "Ryozo Kato resigns as commish," ESPN.com (September 13, 2013).
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