After watching Wily Mo Pena give them what they hope is a taste of things to come, the Chiba Lotte Marines fans in the visitor’s section at Tokyo Dome could only stand and applaud.
And that was just for batting practice.
Pena, who signed with the Marines on June 6, put on a show during his first BP session with the ichi-gun team on Saturday, prior to Lotte’s game against the Yomiuri Giants.
“I was waiting for this, to be able to take BP outside,” said Pena, who has been working at the Marines’ practice facility. “The biggest thing is being able to be with the team, stretching and doing everything with them. That was amazing.”
Pena laid down a bunt to begin his round in the cage, and then really got loose, hitting multiple balls off the signs high above the left-field stands.
“I wasn’t trying to show power,” Pena said. “That’s my normal BP. I’m just trying to get ready and be ready for the day the manager needs me. So that’s why I’ve been trying to do all of the stuff I need to do to be ready for the day they need me to play.”
The Marines are in need of some of the power Pena put on display. The club went into Saturday’s game bringing up the rear among all NPB clubs with 197 runs scored and just 31 home runs, another NPB worst.
Pena, who will be embarking on his fifth NPB season, has 71 career home runs in Japan. His best season came in 2014, when he hit 32 for the Orix Buffaloes. He also had a 21-homer season with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks in 2012, his first season in Japan. Pena spent two years with the Hawks, one with the Buffaloes and last played in Japan with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in 2015, hitting .268 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs in 125 games. He spent much of the last year working out on his own, and was with the Cleveland Indians this past spring.
Because of his previous time in Japan, Pena was already familiar with most of his new teammates before arriving last week.
“I know most of the guys,” Pena said. “I’m just trying to get to know them even better, because we are a family. They’ve been here for so long, now it’s time for me to be with everybody, touching base and talking with them to get to know them more and more.”
The club and its fans are hoping they see more of Pena’s power going forward. The fans at Tokyo Dome began to take notice as he sent ball after ball flying, and when he was done, the Lotte supporters began to cheer in left field.
“I was just taking my normal BP, and I saw that they were clapping,” Pena said. “I think I hit some balls over there, but I was just trying to take my normal BP. I just have to say thank you to them for the support.”