Tokyo, Japan (4E Sports) – Former Major Leaguer and Tokyo Yakult Swallows outfielder Wladimir Balentein hammered his 56th homer to break Japan’s single-season home run record.
Balentein, who played three years with the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds, hit a three-run shot at Meiji Jingu Stadium to overtake Sadaharu Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera.
In his next at-bat, Balentien set a new record when he hammered his 57th homer to lift his team to a 9-0 win over the Hanshin Tigers.
“I am so happy now,” the 29-year-old Balentien said.
In the past, foreign players who had a chance to eclipse Oh’s record faced unsportsmanlike actions.
Going into the last game of the 1985 season, the Tigers’ Randy Bass had 54 home runs. But the Yomiuri Giants, then managed by Oh, walked him four times.
In 2001, Rhodes, then with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, repeatedly saw pitches out of the strike zone down the stretch against the Oh-managed Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, as he attempted to surpass 55.
The next year, Cabrera, with the Seibu Lions, received similar treatment.
“I am looking forward, like all baseball fans, to his final total for the season,” said Oh as he congratulated Balentein.
Balentien missed the first 12 games of the season after injuring his leg while representing the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. Since then, he has been knocking balls out of the park about once every other game.
Balentien’s progress has been charted with the Coco Meter, a reference to his nickname, on the team’s Web site. Outside the stadium Sunday, fans took photographs in front of a similar meter erected at an entrance.
For last-place Yakult, there have been few positives this season. Balentien, who leads the league with a .338 batting average, is the main attraction.
After the game, Balentien did a victory lap through the outfield, raising his hands as the crowd roared. Balentien’s mother, Astrid, was among the fans.