Elly De La Cruz has sent shockwaves through baseball in his first month with the Cincinnati Reds, and spectacles like that which occurred Wednesday will ensure that the fanfare continues. After the Nationals protested De La Cruz’s bat earlier in the game, the rookie shortstop belted an emphatic 455-foot home run.

Before De La Cruz began his trot, he pointed at a plastic sensor on the knob of his bat, the controversial attachment that Washington manager Dave Martinez’s protested earlier on. Umpires forced De La Cruz to remove it for his first at-bat but he was later allowed to re-apply it. By pointing at the bat at home plate, he said after the game that he was trying to send a message.

“Just to tell everybody that the knob is not the reason why I am doing a good job,” De La Cruz said. “It’s because of all the work I’m putting out there.”

In his first 26 games in MLB, De La Cruz has hit .318 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. He hit for the cycle last month against the Braves, becoming just the second 21-year-old player to accomplish the feat after Mike Trout. Despite his earlier protest, Martinez insisted that he respected De La Cruz as a young player, though he did disapprove of his celebration.

“I am not trying to penalize this kid. I’m not. I love the way he plays the game,” Martinez said. “I didn’t like his antics after he hit the home run. We can do without that. He’s only got two weeks in the big leagues, but he’s going to be a good player.”

While the Nationals languish at the bottom of the NL East, De La Cruz has propelled the Reds to the top of the NL Central, as the team is currently 48-39 and holds a two-game lead over the Brewers. As the Reds continue working toward what would be their first division title since 2012, De La Cruz could continue to be a difference-maker as one of baseball’s most exciting young stars.

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