Wladimir Ramon Balentien was born on July 2nd, 1984 in Willemstad, Curaçao. He is often referred to by his nickname, Coco.
He played on the Dutch national team in the 2004 Olympics which finished in sixth place.
Balentien is best known for his incredible power at the plate. He hit the longest home run of the 2009 Major League season off of Pittsburgh’s RHP McCutchen in the seventh inning with one out. Click play in the video below to watch that enormous home run.
According to Hit Tracker, the ball landed 495 ft. from home plate.
Balentien also has a strong arm, so he has been known to give runners pause before pursuing an extra base.
In 2000, and at the age of 16, Balentien signed with the Seattle Mariners as an undrafted free agent. He did not debut in the minors until 2003 when he played in 50 games for Seattle’s rookie ball team, the Arizona League Mariners. He spent the next four seasons rising through the Mariners’ minor league system and had a standout 2007 at AAA Tacoma where he hit .291/.362/.509 in 124 games for the Rainiers.
Balentien was finally granted his major league debut at the end of the 2007 season and collected his first hit in his first at-bat while pinch-hitting in a game against the Yankees. He collected four RBI and six total bases in just four plate appearances at the end of 2007.
He signed his first big league contract, a one-year deal, before the start of the 2008 season, but ended up beginning the season once again with AAA Tacoma. However, about a month later Balentien was called back up to the big leagues when the starting right fielder, Brad Wilkerson, was demoted (Ichiro was starting in center at the time). Balentien logged 243 at-bats in 71 games for the Mariners that season, and he hit just .202/.250/.342 while turning 25 in the process.
With big league numbers that were just slightly better in 2009 than those he put up a year earlier, Balentien was traded to Cincinnati for right-handed reliever, Robert Manuel. Cincinnati got the better end of that trade, as Balentien hit .264/.352/.427 in 110 at-bats while Manuel never made it past Tacoma.
Balentien spent all of the 2010 season at Cincinnati’s AAA affiliate, Louisville and hit .282/.337/.536 while hitting 25 home runs.
He was released by the Reds following the 2010 season so that he could sign a contract with the Tokyo Swallows.
Welcome to Japan!
Balentien signed with the Swallows in November, 2010.
Following the tsunami-delayed start to the 2011 NPB season, Balentien quickly raced out to the front of the home run race in the Central League, a lead that he would not relinquish. His strong first half of the 2011 season earned him All-Star honors.
However, he faded badly during the second half of the season. Balentien played slightly better in the playoffs going six-for-24 with one RBI and two runs scored against some of the best pitchers in the Central League. However, he had no extra-base hits and he struck out nine times.
He finished the 2011 season as the Central League home run king (31) and was top in slugging percentage (.469).
However, the overall adjustment to Japanese baseball was not an easy one as can be seen by comparing his 2010 AAA slash line of .282/.337/.536 (113 hits; 78 RBI; 85 K) with his 2011 NPB stats: .228/.314/.469 (111 hits; 76 RBI; 131 K).
For the record, Balentien played in 116 AAA games in 2010 (452 plate appearances) and 140 games in 2011 (555 plate appearances).