The man traded to the Boston Red Sox for Bronson Arroyo is the newest addition to the list of “20 Greatest Dragons.”
Wily Mo Peña is the 10th former Dragons announced among the 20 Greatest Dragons. Austin Kearns, Zack Cozart, Justin Turner, Homer Bailey, Samone Peters, Devin Mesoraco, Didi Gregorius, Tucker Barnhart, and Todd Frazier were previously announced.
The player recognition is part of the organization’s 20th Season Celebration. Players selected on the list of 20 are being announced in random order leading up to the Dragons 20th Opening Night game on Thursday, April 4 against the Bowling Green Hot Rods.
Peña spent the entire 2001 season with the Dragons and posted a year that still stands as one of the greatest year-long performances in franchise history. Peña was the best hitter on the top power-hitting team the Dragons have ever put on the field. He finished the season with 26 home runs, a total that still ranks third highest on the Dragons all-time list. He drove in 113 runs to set a club record that has never been approached. On August 9, 2001, he blasted three home runs in one game (one of three players in Dragons history to do so) and added another base hit to give him 13 total bases in the contest, a feat that is tied with Austin Kearns for the club record. Peña also stole 26 bases that season, a total that ranked in the top five in the Dragons single-season record book for another 10 years.
Most of all, Peña is remembered for his monstrous home runs at Fifth Third Field. Mike Vander Woude, the Dragons broadcaster from 2000-07, recalls one homer in particular.
“He hit a ball that completely cleared the top of the batter’s eye in center field, left the ballpark on the fly, bounced off Sears Street, and landed in the back of a truck at Dayton Supply & Tool,” says Vander Woude. “He used the biggest bat you would ever see, 36 inches, 35 ounces, and his home runs were not cheap. He was also a good athlete in center field when he played in Dayton.”
Peña had a quick climb through the Reds farm system and reached the Major Leagues in the next season after his year in Dayton, 2002. By 2004, he was seeing regular playing time in the outfield for the Reds despite the presence of former Dragons Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns and future hall-of-famer Ken Griffey, Jr. Peña belted a career-high 26 home runs for the Reds in 2004 in just 336 at-bats, posting a .527 slugging percentage. The next season he added another 19 home runs for the Reds before being dealt to the Red Sox for Arroyo.
Peña was traded to the Washington Nationals in 2007 where he reunited with Kearns. He bounced around over the next few seasons before spending five years in Japan as one of the top home run hitters in the Japanese Pacific League. His last season as an active player came in 2017 in Japan at the age of 35.
The 20 Greatest Dragons were selected based on a media vote of Dragons television, newspaper, radio, and internet reporters. Additionally, during the 2019 season, the Dragons will be conducting a fan vote featuring one player per position to announce their all-time greatest lineup.
The Dragons will host their “20th Season Celebration Game” on Saturday, March 30 at 2:00 p.m. at Fifth Third Field. The game will match the 2019 Dragons (“Team 20”) against a team of Dragons alumni who are still playing in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system.
Additional information on the Dragons 20th Season celebration including videos on the 20 Greatest Dragons, special 20th Season merchandise, and Dragons alumni listings is available here: https://www.milb.com/dayton/team/20.