April 22, 2005


Cincy's Wily Mo flexes star power (Tom Archdeacon, 4/22/05, Dayton Daily News)

The chants began before the game was five minutes old:

"Wil ... eee ... Mo!"

"Wil ... eee ... Mo!"

The dozens of Covington Catholic students — including eight shirtless boys whose bare chests spelled out Go Reds!! on this rainy, 52-degree day — stood along the upper deck railing in left field and began the full-throated salute that soon was being picked up many in Thursday's crowd of 16,218 at Great American Ball Park.

Never mind that it was the top half of the first inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates were still at bat.

The fans — like many of the Cincinnati players themselves — couldn't wait for Wily Mo Pena, the marble-statue-come-to-life of a right fielder, to come to the plate for the Reds.

"I've never seen Barry Bonds play in person, but I've watched him plenty on TV and Wily Mo looks exactly the same," said Todd Coffey, the rookie reliever who just joined the Reds five days ago. "I love watching Wily Mo hit the ball."

Little more than a week ago, Wily Mo was the team's fourth outfielder. Now, he's its marquee player, the spotlight having gone from Ken Griffey Jr.'s smoothness to the Bunyanesque image of Adam Dunn to the sculpted Pena, who has more breath-taking power than either of them.

In the past week in Cincinnati, he's put on the same kind of long-range display — including Sunday's 498-foot blast, second-longest in GABP history — that he did with the Dayton Dragons in 2001 when he launched balls out of Fifth Third Field with such regularity that he ended the season as the team's MVP and second in the Midwest League in home runs.

Counting Thursday's 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh — when he doubled in the Reds' first run — he's now started six straight games. He's hit safely in all of them, had three home runs and nine RBIs. Coming into Thursday, his five home runs on the season were tied for best in the National League.

"By far, he's the most explosive individual I've ever been around," said Reds' third baseman Joe Randa, who's in his 15th pro season. "He's got bat speed like Carlos Beltran, but he's got more strength, more power. He hits the ball farther than anybody I've seen. He's got just about everything."

This is the same guy who — growing up some seven years ago in Laguna Salada, Dominican Republic — had nothing.

He's going to be a staple of ESPN highlight reels for a while.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 22, 2005 6:30 AM

"marble-statue-come-to-life "

Unfortunately, he fields like a marble statute.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 22, 2005 1:11 PM

I believe he was also a Yankee draft pick. Traded for Drew Henson. Idiots.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 22, 2005 6:08 PM

Always a treat to watch the Steroidal Boys of Summer swing their mighty sticks about.

Posted by: J. Tiberius K. at April 23, 2005 4:44 AM