The Midwest League home runs of Wladimir Balentien
Wladimir Balentien played for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2004. He hit 15 home runs in 76 games between April 8 and July 31 for the Rattlers that season.
As of Wednesday, he has 55 home runs this season for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. That total ties him for the single season record for home runs in Japan.
Balentien sent a fastball deep to right in the sixth for his 55th home run of the season which tied the NPB single-season record held by [Sadaharu] Oh, Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera during the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ 6-2 loss to the Carp on Wednesday at Jingu Stadium.
“It’s a great feeling,” Balentien said. “It’s something that was a long time coming. To get it done at this point, with a chance to get some more with so many games left and to hit at Jingu, to hit it to right field where the fans are, I couldn’t ask for anything better than that.”
Balentien moved into rarefied air, joining Japanese baseball great Oh, who first set the current record in 1964, Rhodes (2001) and Cabrera (2002) as the only players to hit 55 home runs in a single season.
“It’s a special feeling,” Balentien said. “I never imagined myself in that situation with all those great players, legendary players. To get my name on that list, only 29 years old, that’s something very special.”
I thought today would be a good day to look back at each of his 15 home runs with the Timber Rattlers in 2004.
#1 April 13 @ Burlington – Top of the 4th inning off Ambiorix Burgos. A solo home run with two outs that put the Rattlers up 2-0. Wisconsin would win the game 5-3. Wisconsin had been no-hit one night earlier by the Bees duo of Dustin Hughes and Jake Mullis.
#2 May 15 vs. Cedar Rapids – Bottom of the 7th inning off Aaron Pullin. A two-run homer with one out. The Rattlers were down 8-0 when Balentien hit this home run. He didn’t homer between April 13 and April 30. Then, he went on the disabled list. He appeared as a defensive replacement in the game on May 14. The homer on May 15 was in his third at bat during his first full game off the DL.
#3 May 17 vs. Cedar Rapids – Bottom of the 2nd inning off Chris Hunter. A solo homer with one out. This one put the Timber Rattlers up 4-0.
#4 May 17 vs. Cedar Rapids – Bottom of the 8th inning off Allen Buckley. A three-run homer with two outs. His second home run of the game gave the Rattlers an 8-3 lead. Cedar Rapids had pulled to within 5-3 on a three-run home run by Matt Brown in the top of the eighth.
#5 May 22 vs. West Michigan – Bottom of the 2nd inning off Jordan Tata. A three-run homer with two outs. This home run tied the game 3-3.
#6 June 2 @ Lansing – Top of the 4th inning off Randy Wells. A solo home run with two outs. Balentien’s blast put the Rattlers up 4-0.
#7 June 4 @ Lansing – Top of the 9th inning off Adalberto Mendez. A two-run homer with two outs. This homer allowed the Rattlers to avoid a shutout, but the Rattlers still lost 7-2.
#8 June 17 @ Dayton – Top of the 6th inning off Josh Thigpen. A grand slam with no outs. This bases loaded tater gave the Rattlers a 9-1 lead. The Rattlers would win this game 15-14….in nine innings…and needed to score three runs in the top of the ninth to come back from a 14-12 deficit. That happened.
That’s the end his home runs in the first half of the season. Balentien batted 5th in the order for the first homer. He hit 8th…yes, EIGHTH… in the order for the rest of the half.
#9 June 26 vs. Peoria – Bottom of the 3rd inning off Jordan Pals. This leadoff home run put the Rattlers up 1-0. They would lose 2-1 when the Chiefs scored a run in the seventh and another in the eighth.
#10 June 29 vs. Dayton – Bottom of the 6th inning off David Shafer. A two-out solo home run gave Wisconsin a 4-0 lead.
#11 June 30 vs. Dayton – Bottom of the 6th inning off Trey Rice. A two-out, two-run homer put the Rattlers up 5-2. Wisconsin had a 5-4 lead going to the top of the ninth, but this guy by the name of Joey Votto hit a 2-run homer, his second two-run homer of the game. The final score wound up 8-6 in favor of the Dragons in ten innings.
#12 July 4 @ Kane County – Top of the 7th off JR Pickens. A leadoff homer pulled the Rattlers to within 3-2, but the Cougars won 5-2.
#13 July 15 vs. Cedar Rapids – Bottom of the 6th off David Austin. A two-run homer with one out made it 5-1. This game started on July 3, but was suspended by a bad storm with one out and a runner at third in the top of the fourth. The game restarted on July 15.
#14 July 17 @ South Bend – Top of the 3rd off Mark Rosen. A leadoff home run in the 3rd inning gave the Rattlers a 1-0 lead.
#15 July 26 vs. South Bend – Bottom of the 5th off Mitch Stetter. A two-run home run with one out put the Rattlers up 2-0.
Balentien hit eighth in the order for the entire second half of the season.
He played his final game with the Timber Rattlers at Battle Creek on July 31. He went 1-for-4 with a double in that game. My memory is a little foggy here. Balentien did not play another game in the Mariners system until August 28 for Inland Empire. I think that he went on the disabled list and was sent to Arizona to rehab and when he was ready, he was promoted to the California League. I think.
Balentien would hit a pair of home runs in ten games for the 66ers after the promotion.
I have always wondered if Balentien would have made a run at the Timber Rattlers home run record. He was at 15 over 76 games with the team during that 2004 season. There were still about 35 games left to play, Oh, he struck out…a lot – 77 Ks in 260 over those 76 games with the Rattlers. His slashline with Wisconsin was .277/.315/.519. He walked only 12 times – twice he was intentionally passed – during that season with Wisconsin. But, he could crush the baseball.
Now, he’s about to write his name in the record books in Japan. Congratulations.