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Sosa's mates write themselves in story

Mates write themselves in story

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers bullpen sits just beyond the right-center-field wall, and its relievers knew they had a chance to be a part of history every time Sammy Sosa came to the plate.

Reliever Akinori Otsuka was thinking just that when Sosa came to the plate in the fifth inning of Wednesday's game against the Chicago Cubs with a chance to make history.

That's just what happened.

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"When I was stretching and getting ready, I said I'm going to catch it," Otsuka said. "Then, he hits it, and [bullpen coach] Dom Chiti is getting ready to catch it, and he drops it and I picked it up."

The baseball that Otsuka picked up was the one that Sosa hit for his 600th career home run Wednesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. A crowd of 37,564 fans erupted in a prolonged standing ovation as Sosa rounded the bases, and his teammates were there at home plate to greet him when he finished.

"Half the guys had chills," catcher Gerald Laird said. "I mean 600 home runs. I don't even have 600 hits."

The home run came in the Rangers' 7-3 victory over the Cubs, and winning pitcher Kameron Loe said afterward, "It was awesome, I really feel very honored to be in that game, be starting pitcher when he hit 600.

"We were jumping up and down, yelling, just all very excited for him. He's a great guy, comes out every day with a great attitude and works really hard. We're all just excited for him and extremely happy for him."

A few of his teammates had reason to be especially proud of him. Like Sosa, pitchers Joaquin Benoit, Frank Francisco and Robinson Tejeda and outfielder Victor Diaz are from the Dominican Republic and understand fully what this means to their country.

Sosa is already a baseball legend down there and this only adds to it.

"It was an incredible moment for all us," Benoit said. "I know there is a party going on in San Pedro and all over the Dominican Republic.

"He was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, and that means a lot. To be a part of it, to almost get hit with the home run in the bullpen, for a guy like me from the Dominican Republic is unbelievable. You can't imagine how we all feel."

But his other teammates certainly enjoyed the moment as well.

"I couldn't be happier for him," shortstop Michael Young said. "It was incredible. It was a fantastic moment. What he has accomplished is amazing. It was a special moment, one of the best I've ever been a part of."

"I think it's awesome," pitcher Kevin Millwood said. "For him to take a year off and come back and accomplish what he's accomplished, it's pretty special. Everybody is excited for him."

Frank Catalanotto certainly won't forget the night. As the on-deck hitter, he had the honor of being the first to greet Sosa with two high-fives before the rest of his teammates jumped in on him.

Then he stepped to the plate and added to the moment by hitting his 75th career home run. He was more than thrilled to be a footnote in history.

"I've never hit a home run that big in my life," Catalanotto said. "I was just glad to be the first guy to congratulate him. Maybe one day I'll be the answer to a trivia question: Who was on the back end of back-to-back home runs when Sosa hit his 600th? That was the last thing anybody thought would happen, but that was pretty exciting."

Otsuka will be the answer to a trivia question, too, and no doubt retrieving the ball will make for big headlines in Japan. But he won't keep it.

"I'll give him the baseball," Otsuka said. "It's nice that I got it, not one of the fans, because he might not get it back."

His teammates were just thrilled to be there and witness history.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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