Willis out to prove himself ... again

Originally Published: January 30, 2004
By Jerry Crasnick | ESPN Insider
Dontrelle Willis has spent most of this offseason with his nose to the grindstone and his butt parked on a workout bench at Pro Player Stadium. He left his family, friends and the comfort of his native California and moved to South Florida for the privilege of working up a sweat with his buddy Juan Pierre. That's dedication.

But stardom is about more than just cardio work and abdominal crunches. Stardom brings certain perks and obligations, commercial and otherwise. Marlins manager Jack McKeon -- everyone's favorite septuagenarian -- capitalized on his fame by appearing in Cigar Aficionado magazine and inspiring senior citizens. Willis, who appeals to a much younger demographic, engaged in several hipper activities.

Dontrelle's excellent post-World Series adventure has included a tour of the Negro League Museum in Kansas City, with Buck O'Neil as his guide, and a December visit to New York, where he rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ and mingled at Jay-Z's exclusive nightspot. Willis has made television appearances on Carson Daly's late-night show and the "Best Damn Sports Show Period."

Dontrelle Willis
Dontrelle Willis hasn't let his sudden stardom or Dontrelle-mania affect his approach.
He almost shook hands with President Bush, too. But while his Florida teammates were visiting the White House last week, Willis was in New York accepting the National League Rookie of the Year Award at a writers' dinner.

So has all this gallivanting and elbow-rubbing swelled Willis's head to the extent that his cap will be even more askew in 2004? Don't count on it.

Jerry Crasnick

ESPN Senior Writer