Ageless Colon defies odds with All-Star berth

Mets right-hander, 43, has become cult hero among fans

Ageless Colon defies odds with All-Star berth

SAN DIEGO -- Bartolo Colon walked through a room filled largely with people half his age, wearing an oversized pair of sunglasses on his face and a fitness tracker on his wrist. He smiled, a lot, as he answered different variations of the same lines of questioning. How does he still succeed at age 43? How much fun is all of this? Might he hit a home run in the All-Star Game? 

A table over, Mets teammate Noah Syndergaard nodded in Colon's direction. "He's a beaut," Syndergaard said.

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If nothing else, Colon is a unique talent who doesn't quite fit within baseball's modern infrastructure, or at least within its expectations. He has proven to be the Mets' most durable starting pitcher at any age when not some, but all of his contemporaries are retired. As such, Colon is one of four Mets All-Stars, along with closer Jeurys Familia, outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Syndergaard. (The latter two will not participate in the game, tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX, due to injuries.)

"I'm just out there having fun," Colon said through an interpreter. "I enjoy myself."

At some point along the line, fans caught on, turning Colon from a freak of nature -- he is 7-4 with a 3.28 ERA in 17 starts and one relief appearance, once again at an age when he's supposed to be golfing -- to a cult hero. Fans at Citi Field often give Colon a standing ovation simply for stepping up to the plate. When Colon hit his first career home run at Petco Park in May, he all but earned a key to the city. His pitching style has evolved from what Carlos Beltran recalled as power, power, power back in the early 2000s to precision, precision, precision today.

But Colon's statistics are not the reason why he is beloved.

"He's a teddy bear, man," Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said. "You can't fake that."

Colon simply laughs and plays along at references like those. He feeds the narrative with references to his own helmet-flying-off antics at the plate, giving earnest reporters the sound bites they desire.

But to paint Colon as a cartoon character is to do him a disservice. Fanatic about his exercise regimen and as self-aware as any pitcher, Colon is shrewd enough to know what he must to do succeed. Mental strength defines him. When Colon first joined the Mets in 2014, for example, Familia recalls the advice his new teammate offered.

"He always talked to me about my confidence," said Familia, a first-time All-Star. "He said if you're scared, pack your stuff and go home, because scared people can't play the game."

Colon went on to tell Familia, "You have to enjoy what you do. … You have to love it" -- an attitude that no one would accuse the 43-year-old of ignoring.

"[I enjoy life] in every way," Colon said, "because you never know when it is your last day."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.