How could I not write a poem about the 265-pound man they call “Big Sexy?” He’s our 43-year-old starting pitcher at the bottom of the rotation, one whose fastball velocity is in the high eighties at best, but who manages to get hitters to clunk groundouts and popouts. But he gives up the occasional home run when he leaves his stuff hanging over the plate, which led to the Mets’ demise last night in freezing temperatures.
Mets 0, Phillies 1.
A routine play, grounder down the first base line
and the pitcher Big Sexy Bartolo hustles
the ball down, scoops it up, and on-the-run
flips it behind his back to get the out,
and the crowd laughs and cheers
but he can’t stop running, the kinetic energy
of his 265 pound body rolling forward
all the way to the dugout where he almost trips
down the steps, and the crowd laughs
and cheers. 43 and still going, worth ten million
bucks simply for the role he plays—
from the D.R., he’s the elder Latino statesman
of the clubhouse. He’s the one who picked out
a fine Cava to shake and spray after the Mets
won the pennant, the one who walks in
to Citi Field with an entourage, the one
who’s been doing this longer than anyone else.
And the fans love him despite his age
and his waning fastball, love the clunky
displays of athletic prowess, the batting helmet
flying off from an overpowered swing,
the fat-jiggling hustle to get on first base,
but the quietude, the command,
the fine grace of a slow and nasty curveball
that whips out of his hand as a hanging strike
but fools the batter as he swings too soon.
Some would call that a junkball
but it’s his best and, like his age and weight,
it always keeps everyone guessing.