GUEST ARTICLE WRITER: Tim Ritter
Earlier this month, the Cubs inked 32 year old Carlos Pena to the tune of $10 million for one year to try to add some security at first base. He joins the team from the Tampa Bay Rays. So who is he? What can the Cubs expect in terms of this attempt to replace Derrek Lee?
Pena, a native of the Dominican Republic, played baseball in the streets likes so many of his countrymen. But unlike other Dominican players, such as Sammy Sosa or Mariano Rivera, Pena came to the United States as a youth. Pena came to the majors by way of the draft out after playing collegiate ball at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. Pena made his MLB debut on September 5, 2001, and will make his official Cubs debut in April 2011.
Pena does have pop and defensive skill. He shared the 2009 Home Run crown with Mark Teixeira, and earned a Gold Glove at first base in 2008. In order to accomplish these feats, a player must be completely mentally dedicated to the game he plays.
To prepare, Pena, like many other players, gathers his focus by listening to music and clearing his mind of everything that is not baseball. It is not clear if Pena has any superstitions like so many other ballplayers, or if he must have a certain meal or wear specific clothing such as a lucky t-shirt or gold chain.
Pena is persistent, dedicated, and is able to overcome adversity. He will be entering the 2011 season after missing most of the second half of 2010 with two broken fingers.
Under Pena’s leadership, the Rays went from worst to first in the American League from 2007 to 2008, and Cub fans are hopeful he can perform a similar task.
Of course, Pena is a far cry from Lee, whose mental focus was obvious on and off the field. Yet Pena’s leadership, skill set, and veteran experience will help anchor a young Cubs infield.