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Pena retires as Ray, honored by organization

First baseman spent five seasons with franchise, says 'it felt like home'

ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Pena remains a beloved figure to Rays fans, and Friday became a special day for him and the fans who enjoyed watching him play during his tenure with the team.

Pena signed an honorary contract with the team on Friday, and the 14-year veteran immediately announced his retirement from Major League Baseball.

Video: [email protected]: Pena gives an emotional farewell to baseball

"After 17 years of living my childhood dream, I am honored to walk away from the game I love, with the team that I most cherished," said Pena, who last played in 2014, with Texas. "The Tampa Bay Rays will forever hold a very special place in my heart. It felt like home. It felt like family."

Pena spoke at a pregame news conference in which he was surrounded by family and friends. Then, prior to the game vs. the Orioles, Pena took to the field wearing his familiar No. 23 to throw out the ceremonial first pitch after a video tribute played on the scoreboard.

Video: [email protected]: Pena tosses first pitch, jersey gets retired

"Carlos played such a key role during the transformation of our franchise to the Rays," said Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman. "His contributions both as a player and a person can still be felt today. The respect he has for our organization and the connection he feels to Tampa Bay and our fans is heartwarming. It is with great pride that we welcome him back to the Rays organization."

Pena spent more time in a Rays uniform (five seasons, 2007-10, '12) than with any other club, and they were the most productive seasons of his career. His 163 home runs set a Rays franchise record, which has since been surpassed by Evan Longoria (203). Pena also ranks among the club's career leaders with 468 RBIs (fourth), a .483 slugging percentage (third; minimum 1,200 PA), 460 walks (third) and 402 runs scored (fifth). In addition, his three seasons of at least 100 RBIs are most in club history, and his five grand slams are tied with Ben Zobrist for the franchise record.

Video: [email protected]: Pena chats with the booth about his career

"This is just a dream come true to end my career in such a way," Pena said. "And I wouldn't have it any other way. The Rays, it was the most fun I ever had playing baseball -- including Little League, I must say. And it's something I repeat often. ... I'm floored [by getting to retire as a Ray]. Words cannot really express how grateful I am and how indebted I am to this organization and the people of Tampa Bay."

Active in the community for the duration of his career, Pena served as a spokesperson for Big Brothers Big Sisters. He and his wife, Pamela, donated to the Rays Baseball Foundation, helped raise funds for the January 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti and were advocates for Fundación Lumen 2000, a Christian foundation that provides housing for foster children. For his leadership on and off the field, Pena was honored as the Rays' recipient of the 2008 Roberto Clemente Award as well as the 2007 and 2009 Paul C. Smith Champion Award, chosen by the Tampa Bay Chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Pena, 37, is a studio analyst for MLB Network. He and Pamela reside in Orlando, Fla., with their daughter, Isabella, and son, Nicholas.

Worth noting

• On Sunday, the Rays will premiere "Rays Rookies," an original series by Sunburst Productions in partnership with the University of South Florida. "Rays Rookies" is a television program designed to engage the Rays' growing youth fan base that is hosted by kids, for kids ages 8 to 13 years old.

In conjunction with the production of the "Rays Rookies" series, the Rays and the USF Foundation have created a scholarship endowment to help fund the First Generation Scholarship students in the College of Arts and Sciences. This is a $160,000 gift over four years. Once the four-year gift cycle is completed, the endowment will continue to fund two First Generation Scholars in perpetuity.

• Brandon Willie Martin, 22, was apprehended in Corona, Calif., in connection to a double homicide in the Corona area. Martin was drafted by the Rays in 2011 but has not played since the 2013 season. The Rays issued the following statement regarding Martin: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Brandon Martin and to everyone affected by this terrible tragedy."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
Read More: Tampa Bay Rays