Can a wunderkind pitcher—the youngest player in the majors this season—lead long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans to the World Series? Maybe, but if 21-year-old Kerry Wood is flattered by the hope, he’s weary of the hype. “I wasn’t expecting to be moved up so quickly,” says the Irving native, who was called up from the minors on April 12. “I just try to be better every time I go out there and throw the ball.” And throw the ball he does: The six-foot-five-inch, 225-pound right-hander’s fastball has been clocked near one hundred miles per hour, prompting comparisons between him and another Texas strong-arm, Nolan Ryan (his childhood hero). In his first big league start, Wood struck out seven Montreal Expos in a losing effort, but he beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in his Wrigley Field debut. Then, on May 6, he struck out twenty Houston Astros, tying the league record. Not surprisingly, his success has generated much excitement back home, where he was named Texas 5A player of the year in 1995. “My parents are more excited than I am—almost,” Wood says. “They think I’m cruising, but I know I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
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