What's new

The Official D-Dub news thread

markotsay7

Guest
Willis keeps it herky, perky for Marlins

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
By Alan Schwarz
Special to ESPN.com


Absolutely true story: Two women, pushing a good 80 at least, were talking at a supermarket in Swampscott, Mass., last week when the chat turned to baseball. One asked the other, "You seen that Dontrelle Willis pitch yet? Wow!"


Dontrelle Willis' delivery contains many moving parts.


Sure enough, Dontrelle Willis, the Marlins' phenomenal 21-year-old left-hander, has been so spectacular in his first nine major-league starts that he has already crossed over into the New England octogenarian market. It seems as if every baseball fan up and down both coasts, and all points in between, has caught Dontrelle Fever -- a condition marked by occasional slapping of the forehead in amazement and uncontrollable giggling, after watching major-league All-Stars flail at the kid's all-arms-and-legs windup reminiscent of a spastic squid.

Willis has dazzled hitters and audiences alike by going 7-1 with a 2.38 ERA nine starts into his major-league career, but it was his one-hitter over the Mets on June 16 that thrust him into the national spotlight and flooded the Marlins' public-relations department with requests from every major media organization.

Card companies have showered him with $20,000 worth of autograph deals. Heck, even the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Class A outfit for whom Willis was pitching last August, is planning a Dontrelle Willis Bobblehead Night. Now that's fame.

"I don't think he even realizes what he's accomplishing," Marlins catcher Mike Redmond said. "He pitches with excitement and enthusiasm. He's just what this team needed -- a spark."

Baseball doesn't mind, either. Willis is quickly becoming a worthy descendant of Mark Fidrych, Fernando Valenzuela and Dwight Gooden, a baseball species known as phenom electus. His starts are becoming as anticipated as any in the game, because no one can be sure what this kid is going to do next.

South Florida's Fox Sports Net reports that his appearances have received the cable network's highest ratings since August 1998, when some guy named Mark McGwire (remember him?) was chasing the home-run record. Every major national sports outlet has featured him or plans to soon.

"When you get any attention out of south Florida," first baseman Derrek Lee said, "you must be doing something special."

The sudden celebrity hasn't shaken Willis much, in large part because his noggin is on much more firmly than, say, the bobbleheads soon to bear his likeness.

"I just try to stay level," said Willis, who was called up to Florida on May 9, after going 4-0 in six starts at Double-A Carolina. "If you get caught up in all this stuff, it can be a little overwhelming."

In the meantime, he simply delights in all his new experiences, like his first-ever trip to New York, where he starts Thursday against the Mets. He took the No. 7 subway out to Shea to soak it all in, and -- after stepping off the train -- snapped a picture of the stadium with his new cell phone.

If this all feels new to Willis, forgive him. He wasn't even alive in 1981 when Valenzuela spun, looked to the sky and screwballed his way to eight straight wins (with five shutouts) as a rookie and spawned Fernando-mania throughout Los Angeles and beyond. But Willis could be on his way to similar popularity and intrigue. It isn't just his talent -- he's already getting more buzz than Albert Pujols ever has -- but his joint-stretching delivery and the overwhelming impression the gangly kid is having one heck of a time.

The Willis Windup begins by peeking back toward right field (not unlike Fernando). He hoists his right knee almost to the eyeballs and slings the ball toward the plate while, it appears, dislocating neither shoulder nor hip. It makes you wonder if Plastic Man left the Hall of Justice to join the Florida Marlins. (Polar opposite of Mark Prior's compact delivery.)

Many pitchers with similarly goofy deliveries -- Orlando Hernandez, Juan Marichal, Hideo Nomo, Luis Tiant and Valenzuela -- have been from foreign lands, with an exotic air of mystery about them. Willis is from an outpost considerably less known for producing baseball players -- America's inner city.

He grew up in a poor section of Alameda, Calif., with no father to speak of -- Willis has never even known his name -- but playing ball wherever he could. His favorite game was something he and his friends called "strikeout": He spray-painted a strike zone on the side of his house and pitched tennis balls to it from the middle of the street. (This is urban America's update of Bob Feller throwing against his barn door.) The boys started hitting so well that they tried all sorts of deceptive deliveries to save balls.

"They were expensive for us back then -- we had to come up with something," Willis laughs. "I tried submarine once. But my arms are very long, and I scraped the ground and cut my hand up pretty bad. That was the end of that."

Ten years later, Willis uses some of the same improvisational moves to retire major-league hitters. When he does, an immense smile breaks across his fleshy face, and he bounces around the pitcher's mound, adrenaline pumping through his head and heart. After the one-hitter against the Mets, he high-fived his teammates so hard he almost broke their hands.

"He's a blast for guys to play behind," Redmond said.

Though he's probably the biggest star on the team right now, Willis loves showing his teammates that he knows his place. His rookie responsibility is to walk up and down the aisle of the team charter serving soft drinks.

Said utilityman Andy Fox, "Some guys think they're above that stuff, but Dontrelle is such a nice guy. If someone's like, 'Hey Dontrelle, get me a soda,' he'll jump up and go, 'Diet or regular?' " Last Halloween, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Willis dressed up as a rabbi.

Willis, more than most people know, realizes how quickly this all can end. About a week before spring training he was driving 65 mph on Highway 101 in Palo Alto, Calif., when a rear tire blew out. The car flipped a half-dozen times. Willis, strapped in by his seat belt, can still remember the view from inside, watching the windshield crash in on him and his world spinning about, while he wondered if he'd live to pitch in the majors at all. Miraculously, the car finally came to rest with Willis getting nary a scratch, and he climbed out through the crumpled back windshield.

"I was grounded before that happened," he sighs, "but it kind of put things in perspective."

He takes the same world view to the baseball ride he's on now.

"I'm not a phenom -- I'm just a kid who loves the game and loves to be out there," he said. "Once people get the book out on you, they see you over and over again, we'll see what kind of tags I have on me. I'm not a phenom. I don't think of myself as phenomenal."

Willis might have to reconsider if he keeps pitching like this. He throws 93-94 mph while keeping the ball down. His slider and change dance and drop through the zone. He has won his last six starts with a 0.84 ERA, and at this pace could become too attractive to keep off the NL All-Star team.

In the meantime, Willis will keep soaking up the big-league experience, touring every city he visits with a heartfelt wonder others save for him. But he does have his limits: No top of the Empire State Building.

"I don't like heights," he reports.

Keep pitching like this, kid, and you'd better get used to them.

Alan Schwarz is the senior writer of Baseball America magazine and a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
 

Fish Fillet

Muckdog
Joined
May 22, 2003
Messages
2,186
Reaction score
0
"When you get any attention out of south Florida," first baseman Derrek Lee said, "you must be doing something special."

Shut up Lee, you worthless, waste of skin, no-RISP hitting, overpaid loser.
 

markotsay7

Guest
Joe Morgan's take:

I've only seen Dontrelle Willis pitch on TV, but he appears to have electric stuff. His fastball seems to explode when it gets close to the plate. It looks like he can be an excellent starter for the Marlins for years to come.
From all appearances, Willis has a level head, with an understanding of who he is and what he wants to do.

I'm sure the Marlins will be extremely careful with him after all the accusations that have been thrown at the organization over how they treat young pitchers and the high amount of pitches they throw. I expect the team to be more protective of Willis than of their pitchers in the recent past.

Florida had a great young staff a couple years ago, led by A.J. Burnett and Josh Beckett -- who are both currently on the disabled list. Some critics say these starters have declined because of misuse and overuse. I'm not sure that's the case, but that's what some have said.


Link: http://msn.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/schwarz...an/1573032.html
 

Wild Card

Muckdog
Joined
Apr 25, 2003
Messages
19,020
Reaction score
0
Though he's probably the biggest star on the team right now, Willis loves showing his teammates that he knows his place. His rookie responsibility is to walk up and down the aisle of the team charter serving soft drinks.

Said utilityman Andy Fox, "Some guys think they're above that stuff, but Dontrelle is such a nice guy. If someone's like, 'Hey Dontrelle, get me a soda,' he'll jump up and go, 'Diet or regular?'

:lol :lol :lol :lol :lol :p
 

Hanleylicious

Muckdog
Joined
May 20, 2003
Messages
5,883
Reaction score
0
-- a condition marked by occasional slapping of the forehead in amazement and uncontrollable giggling, after watching major-league All-Stars flail at the kid's all-arms-and-legs windup reminiscent of a spastic squid.
spastic squid....LMFAO :D


Thats by far the best D-Dub article I've read! :thumbup
 

Wild Card

Muckdog
Joined
Apr 25, 2003
Messages
19,020
Reaction score
0
I don't recall all of the ones I've read, but of the ones I can remember this is the best.
 

Hanleylicious

Muckdog
Joined
May 20, 2003
Messages
5,883
Reaction score
0
I never heard about that car crash before, thought that was interesting :mischief2
 

Wild Card

Muckdog
Joined
Apr 25, 2003
Messages
19,020
Reaction score
0
Me too!

I'm sort of glad in a way it happened to him (he wasn't hurt.) It might have put everything in a good perspective for him. He won't take anything for granted...
 

markotsay7

Guest
I never heard about that car crash before, thought that was interesting :mischief2
They mentioned it in passing on Mother's Day telecast...
 

Wild Card

Muckdog
Joined
Apr 25, 2003
Messages
19,020
Reaction score
0
Already saw it...

Think he'll still be on it tonight if he wins? Think he'll lead-off BT?

I hope!!!
 

markotsay7

Guest
For those of you who don't receive the Sun-Sentinel...a great article by Dave Hyde...

HYDE: Willis the toast of New York
Published June 27, 2003


NEW YORK ? Before the game, in the bullpen, where the kid with the strange pitching motion was warming up, dozens of New York's finest gathered to welcome him on his first visit to town.

"Nice delivery, punk!"

"Who d'ya think you are, Luis Tiant?!"

"LET'S GO, METS! LET'S GO, METS!"

"Hey, where'd you learn to throw!?!"

"You're gonna get rocked!"

"LET'S GO, METS!"

Dontrelle Willis quietly slung a towel over his shoulder Thursday night, began walking in from left field in the ungodly heat of a New York June and proceeded to do something more remarkable than quiet the loudest city, more impressive than win his eighth game and with deeper ramifications than underline his All-Star candidacy and Rookie of the Year legitimacy.

The Marlins' pitcher won more than a game this night. By the end, he started to win another city. You had to hear it to believe it. After throwing five scoreless innings, Willis singled in the fifth Marlins run, rounded first base and dove head-first into second base.

It didn't matter that he was out. It didn't matter that Marlins fans everywhere cringed over the possibility of his crumpled fingers. He turned a big town small. He showed it his heart. And 20 rows behind the Marlins' dugout, a cheer started from Mets fans in jerseys bearing the names of "Piazza" and "Franco."

"Don-trelle!" they began to chant.

"DON-trelle!" neighbors joined in.

"DON-TRELLE! DON-TRELLE!"

Willis says he didn't hear it, and there's no doubting him. He went back to work with a 19-inning shutout streak (it snapped right there).

"They were cheering for me?" he asked. "I don't know why they would be -- maybe because they thought I was showing heart."

Heart. Arm. Mind. The whole package you've seen by now. And so the wonderful world of Willis continued through this 6-1 win against the Mets. His line for the night: Nine hits, one run, two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. His line for this start: "This is it, this is the dream for me."

His record is now 8-1. His earned-run averaged dropped to 2.26. He's making stat freaks dig through the baseball catacombs to conclude he's the fourth pitcher since 1920 to win eight of his first 10 stars before turning 22 (Dizzy Dean, Mark Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela are the others).

His run has gotten to the point that manager Jack McKeon and pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal both admit they're saying less to him rather than more. Letting him be. Letting this trip take wings and Sports Illustrated headlines.

"I'm as superstitious as anyone else," Rosenthal said before Thursday's game. "I'll say what has to be said, but nothing more."

Of course, this is a rookie who prepared for Thursday by watching video of last week's one-hitter against the Mets, studying each pitch to see what might work this time around. It's a pitcher who knows his mechanics so well that, when he does work between starts, he typically tells Rosenthal what went wrong on a given pitch before the coach can.

But let's not forget he's a 21-year-old kid, too. He's living with reliever Tim Spooneybarger and his wife of six months, this kid who Spooneybarger says eats nothing but cheese, who was shocked people recognized him after his first game and who was scared he would wreck the new SUV the Spooneybargers loan him.

"I told him, `The way things are going, you'll have plenty of money even if you wreck it,'" Spooneybarger said.

Sure, his past three wins have been against Tampa Bay and the Mets, who might have the two worst lineups in baseball. No Met in Thursday's lineup was hitting over Jason Phillips' .288. Only three had more than three home runs all season.

But in any game there are pitches that frame the outcome, and Willis made them again Thursday. With two Mets on in the second, third and sixth innings, Willis got a strikeout for each third out. He got some help from rookie left fielder Miguel Cabrera, who threw out the Mets' Roger Cedeno at home for the second inning's second out. He got some more when Jose Reyes was called out stealing third to slow a Mets rally in the seventh.

But this remains his show, his run and, for a few minutes there, even his town on Thursday night.

"They were cheering?" he asked, shaking his head, as the call went through the Marlins clubhouse to board the bus for the airport.

Another night. Another win. Another stadium where, by the end, even the home fans were chanting his name.

Dave Hyde can be reached at dhyde@sun-sentinel.com.
Copyright ? 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Link: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/basebal...-sports-marlins
 

Larry Beinfest

Muckdog
Joined
Jun 27, 2003
Messages
56
Reaction score
0
We certainly made quite a pick-up when we traded for Dontrelle, He has become a great player for us, and will be with this team for a very long time.

I've never heard any New York fan cheer on the member of another team. That's something very new. I would concider that a great honer.
 

SportsCenter

Muckdog
Joined
May 5, 2003
Messages
1,627
Reaction score
0
For those of you who don't receive the Sun-Sentinel...a great article by Dave Hyde...

HYDE: Willis the toast of New York
Published June 27, 2003


NEW YORK ? Before the game, in the bullpen, where the kid with the strange pitching motion was warming up, dozens of New York's finest gathered to welcome him on his first visit to town.

"Nice delivery, punk!"

"Who d'ya think you are, Luis Tiant?!"

"LET'S GO, METS! LET'S GO, METS!"

"Hey, where'd you learn to throw!?!"

"You're gonna get rocked!"

"LET'S GO, METS!"

Dontrelle Willis quietly slung a towel over his shoulder Thursday night, began walking in from left field in the ungodly heat of a New York June and proceeded to do something more remarkable than quiet the loudest city, more impressive than win his eighth game and with deeper ramifications than underline his All-Star candidacy and Rookie of the Year legitimacy.

The Marlins' pitcher won more than a game this night. By the end, he started to win another city. You had to hear it to believe it. After throwing five scoreless innings, Willis singled in the fifth Marlins run, rounded first base and dove head-first into second base.

It didn't matter that he was out. It didn't matter that Marlins fans everywhere cringed over the possibility of his crumpled fingers. He turned a big town small. He showed it his heart. And 20 rows behind the Marlins' dugout, a cheer started from Mets fans in jerseys bearing the names of "Piazza" and "Franco."

"Don-trelle!" they began to chant.

"DON-trelle!" neighbors joined in.

"DON-TRELLE! DON-TRELLE!"

Willis says he didn't hear it, and there's no doubting him. He went back to work with a 19-inning shutout streak (it snapped right there).

"They were cheering for me?" he asked. "I don't know why they would be -- maybe because they thought I was showing heart."

Heart. Arm. Mind. The whole package you've seen by now. And so the wonderful world of Willis continued through this 6-1 win against the Mets. His line for the night: Nine hits, one run, two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. His line for this start: "This is it, this is the dream for me."

His record is now 8-1. His earned-run averaged dropped to 2.26. He's making stat freaks dig through the baseball catacombs to conclude he's the fourth pitcher since 1920 to win eight of his first 10 stars before turning 22 (Dizzy Dean, Mark Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela are the others).

His run has gotten to the point that manager Jack McKeon and pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal both admit they're saying less to him rather than more. Letting him be. Letting this trip take wings and Sports Illustrated headlines.

"I'm as superstitious as anyone else," Rosenthal said before Thursday's game. "I'll say what has to be said, but nothing more."

Of course, this is a rookie who prepared for Thursday by watching video of last week's one-hitter against the Mets, studying each pitch to see what might work this time around. It's a pitcher who knows his mechanics so well that, when he does work between starts, he typically tells Rosenthal what went wrong on a given pitch before the coach can.

But let's not forget he's a 21-year-old kid, too. He's living with reliever Tim Spooneybarger and his wife of six months, this kid who Spooneybarger says eats nothing but cheese, who was shocked people recognized him after his first game and who was scared he would wreck the new SUV the Spooneybargers loan him.

"I told him, `The way things are going, you'll have plenty of money even if you wreck it,'" Spooneybarger said.

Sure, his past three wins have been against Tampa Bay and the Mets, who might have the two worst lineups in baseball. No Met in Thursday's lineup was hitting over Jason Phillips' .288. Only three had more than three home runs all season.

But in any game there are pitches that frame the outcome, and Willis made them again Thursday. With two Mets on in the second, third and sixth innings, Willis got a strikeout for each third out. He got some help from rookie left fielder Miguel Cabrera, who threw out the Mets' Roger Cedeno at home for the second inning's second out. He got some more when Jose Reyes was called out stealing third to slow a Mets rally in the seventh.

But this remains his show, his run and, for a few minutes there, even his town on Thursday night.

"They were cheering?" he asked, shaking his head, as the call went through the Marlins clubhouse to board the bus for the airport.

Another night. Another win. Another stadium where, by the end, even the home fans were chanting his name.

Dave Hyde can be reached at dhyde@sun-sentinel.com.
Copyright ? 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Link: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/basebal...-sports-marlins very nice article GOOD DONTRELLE U GANNA BE THE NXT BIG UNIT!
 

BIG Z

Muckdog
Joined
Jun 26, 2003
Messages
5,437
Reaction score
0
For those of you who don't receive the Sun-Sentinel...a great article by Dave Hyde...

HYDE: Willis the toast of New York
Published June 27, 2003


NEW YORK ? Before the game, in the bullpen, where the kid with the strange pitching motion was warming up, dozens of New York's finest gathered to welcome him on his first visit to town.

"Nice delivery, punk!"

"Who d'ya think you are, Luis Tiant?!"

"LET'S GO, METS! LET'S GO, METS!"

"Hey, where'd you learn to throw!?!"

"You're gonna get rocked!"

"LET'S GO, METS!"

Dontrelle Willis quietly slung a towel over his shoulder Thursday night, began walking in from left field in the ungodly heat of a New York June and proceeded to do something more remarkable than quiet the loudest city, more impressive than win his eighth game and with deeper ramifications than underline his All-Star candidacy and Rookie of the Year legitimacy.

The Marlins' pitcher won more than a game this night. By the end, he started to win another city. You had to hear it to believe it. After throwing five scoreless innings, Willis singled in the fifth Marlins run, rounded first base and dove head-first into second base.

It didn't matter that he was out. It didn't matter that Marlins fans everywhere cringed over the possibility of his crumpled fingers. He turned a big town small. He showed it his heart. And 20 rows behind the Marlins' dugout, a cheer started from Mets fans in jerseys bearing the names of "Piazza" and "Franco."

"Don-trelle!" they began to chant.

"DON-trelle!" neighbors joined in.

"DON-TRELLE! DON-TRELLE!"

Willis says he didn't hear it, and there's no doubting him. He went back to work with a 19-inning shutout streak (it snapped right there).

"They were cheering for me?" he asked. "I don't know why they would be -- maybe because they thought I was showing heart."

Heart. Arm. Mind. The whole package you've seen by now. And so the wonderful world of Willis continued through this 6-1 win against the Mets. His line for the night: Nine hits, one run, two walks and seven strikeouts in seven innings. His line for this start: "This is it, this is the dream for me."

His record is now 8-1. His earned-run averaged dropped to 2.26. He's making stat freaks dig through the baseball catacombs to conclude he's the fourth pitcher since 1920 to win eight of his first 10 stars before turning 22 (Dizzy Dean, Mark Fidrych and Fernando Valenzuela are the others).

His run has gotten to the point that manager Jack McKeon and pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal both admit they're saying less to him rather than more. Letting him be. Letting this trip take wings and Sports Illustrated headlines.

"I'm as superstitious as anyone else," Rosenthal said before Thursday's game. "I'll say what has to be said, but nothing more."

Of course, this is a rookie who prepared for Thursday by watching video of last week's one-hitter against the Mets, studying each pitch to see what might work this time around. It's a pitcher who knows his mechanics so well that, when he does work between starts, he typically tells Rosenthal what went wrong on a given pitch before the coach can.

But let's not forget he's a 21-year-old kid, too. He's living with reliever Tim Spooneybarger and his wife of six months, this kid who Spooneybarger says eats nothing but cheese, who was shocked people recognized him after his first game and who was scared he would wreck the new SUV the Spooneybargers loan him.

"I told him, `The way things are going, you'll have plenty of money even if you wreck it,'" Spooneybarger said.

Sure, his past three wins have been against Tampa Bay and the Mets, who might have the two worst lineups in baseball. No Met in Thursday's lineup was hitting over Jason Phillips' .288. Only three had more than three home runs all season.

But in any game there are pitches that frame the outcome, and Willis made them again Thursday. With two Mets on in the second, third and sixth innings, Willis got a strikeout for each third out. He got some help from rookie left fielder Miguel Cabrera, who threw out the Mets' Roger Cedeno at home for the second inning's second out. He got some more when Jose Reyes was called out stealing third to slow a Mets rally in the seventh.

But this remains his show, his run and, for a few minutes there, even his town on Thursday night.

"They were cheering?" he asked, shaking his head, as the call went through the Marlins clubhouse to board the bus for the airport.

Another night. Another win. Another stadium where, by the end, even the home fans were chanting his name.

Dave Hyde can be reached at dhyde@sun-sentinel.com.
Copyright ? 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Link: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/basebal...-sports-marlins very nice article GOOD DONTRELLE U GANNA BE THE NXT BIG UNIT! Or maybe the next member 4rm G-UNIT!!!! LETS GO WILLIS!!!!!!!! :)
 

Latest posts

Top Bottom