Above: Wladimir Balentien after his record-breaking 56th blast
By the Caribbean Journal staff
A record that had stood in Japan for 49 years was broken on Sunday by an outfielder from Curacao.
Wladimir Balentien, a native of Willemstad, Curacao, hit his 56th and 57th home runs of the season on Sunday to break the single-season record for home runs in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Balentien, who played parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues for the Seattle Mariners and the Cincinnati Reds, broke the record first set by Japanese legend Sadaharu Oh in 1964.
Balentien, who plays for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, was hitting .338 with 57 home runs and 120 RBI through Sunday.
Japan’s league is widely considered the second-best professional league in the world, after Major League Baseball.
The record, which was tied by American Tuffy Rhodes in 2001 and Mexico’s Alex Cabrera in 2002.
Balentien’s performance should draw some renewed Major League interest. At age 29, he should have a number of productive years left.