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  Sun, August 1, 2004


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Hey Carlos, how does it feel?
By MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun


Carlos Delgado talks homers with Mike Ulmer

How does it feel to ride a winner in a thoroughbred stakes race? Or return a punt for a touchdown? Or light up a Major League pitcher with a 400-foot home run?

The Toronto Sun will be asking that question of the world's greatest athletes over the next few months and collecting their answers for essays on what they do best.

We start with Blue Jays firstbaseman Carlos Delgado.

His pair of home runs against Tampa Bay yesterday raise his disappointing total to just 15 on the season, obscuring what has been a fantastically productive half dozen years in which the one-time catcher averaged 40 homers and 123 RBIs.

The 32-year-old Delgado is the Jays career leader in home runs with 319 and the club's first 1,000 RBI man. He is one of only five American Leaguers to hit four homers in one game.

"I have gone to the plate thinking about home run and usually the results aren't very good," he says. "Any time you start thinking home run, you get too big. You muscle up, you lose your quickness because you're forcing it, you're trying too hard. After a while, you realize it's not the smartest approach.

"I hit the majority of home runs off fastballs, even though hanging curveballs or hanging change-ups go a long way.

DIFFERENCE

"You can see the difference between a breaking pitch or a fastball right away by the spin. Ninety-five to 98 per cent of the time, you know if it's a fastball or some kind of breaking pitch.

"The better pitchers throw pitches with late movement or a real tight slider that almost looks like a fastball.

"To hit a home run, your mechanics have to be almost perfect. You've got to stay back, you've got to get some backspin and you've got to hit through the ball.When it works, it's a combination of factors going well and it's just the most amazing feeling.

"When your mechanics are good and you get ready soon enough, you have time to see the ball because your head is not moving. As a hitter, you get in trouble because you start late and your head is moving at the same time the ball is moving.

"Hands down, the most important elements in hitting are keeping your head still and getting ready before the pitcher throws the ball.

"Three and one is a pretty good hitter's count. If I was going to pick my favourite count, it would be three and one.

"I wouldn't call it guessing, but there are certain counts you look for something.

DISCIPLINED

"When you're guessing, you hope they throw into your swing and you swing regardless. When you're looking for something, you have to be more disciplined. If you don't get the pitch you're looking for, you should take it. If you get the pitch you're looking for, hit it.

"You know right away when you swing and just miss hitting the ball square. It's like anyone else in their craft. If you're talking to a pianist and he misses a key by this much (Delgado holds up two fingers, an inch apart), he knows he played the wrong note. It's the same thing for us. You've trained every since you were a little kid to hit the ball square. When you don't, you know it instantly.

"Hitting a home run is like a mission accomplished. Everybody's trying to get you out. They don't tell you what they're going to throw. It's like you come up with this master plan which is your approach.

"I love the jog around the bases. It's the only time in the game you don't have to run fast because nobody can tag you. It's awesome. You've defeated all odds. Everyone's trying to get you out but you got them.

"That feeling lasts for as long as you run around the bases. After that you've got to snap out of it because you've got to play defence next inning or you've got to hit in a couple of more innings. If you're thinking about the home run, you're not going to see the ball.

"I don't have one favourite home run. My first home run was in the SkyDome in 1994. Four home runs in a game (in Sept. 2003), that was pretty sweet. I hit a home run at home on my 28th birthday off Pedro Martinez in 2000 and we ended up sweeping the series. They're all great. You always have your favourites, don't get me wrong. I think the most rewarding ones are the ones you get off the pitchers you don't hit very well.

You feel like you finally got him. It's a great relief."