Thursday, June 19, 2003

Sosa returns with a big bang

By John Erardi
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Sammy Sosa rejoices after smacking an estimated 464-foot home run Wednesday night.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
Sammy Sosa returned in style Wednesday, blasting a home run in his third at-bat that came within a few feet of reaching the roof of the batter's eye in dead center field at Great American Ball Park.

Sosa did his trademark bounce out of the batter's box with his arms extended wide. He knew it was gone.

"I don't want to make a big deal out of one home run, but yes, I put a good swing on it and I hit it good," Sosa said.

This was not just another day at the office for baseball's reigning icon of sweetness and swat.

Sosa returned from a seven-game suspension for using a corked bat two weeks ago in a game at Wrigley Field.

As he stepped toward home plate for his first at-bat, he acknowledged Reds catcher Kelly Stinnett and tapped his bat on the shoe of home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.

The crowd roared.

"It was a great reception (from Cubs and Reds fans)," Sosa said. "I was very pleased."

There were just enough boos to let you know you this wasn't Chicago - but only barely.

Sosa singled softly to right field in his first at-bat; his bat cracked but did not split open.

"I only hope Sammy doesn't try to make up for a hundred at-bats in four or five days," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said before the game.

In some ways, it seemed that Sosa made up for everything in only one day.

In other ways, his first day back seemed to show Sosa will never make up for that corked-bat affair, even if he has 10,000 more at-bats.

"Why cork a bat when you can hit it 500 feet with an uncorked bat?" asked Reds fan Ben Roll, a 16-year-old fan from Franklin who had retrieved a Sosa batting practice blast into the sixth row above the divider in the second-deck bleachers in left-center field before Wednesday's game.

"There's no way (Sosa will) ever cork a bat again," said Roll, twirling the slightly scuffed baseball in his right hand. "I've got a good story to tell my kids someday."

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