Jeremy Pena was the Astros’ third-round pick in the 2018 Draft out of the University of Maine. The son of former big leaguer Geronimo Pena, he hit .303/.385/.440 across two levels of A-ball during his first full season, then went to the Arizona Fall League. He was invited to big league camp for the first time this spring.
MLB.com: This is your second Spring Training. Do you feel more comfortable this time around?
Jeremy Pena: Of course. It’s great to be here. It’s a blessing to be here, a beautiful experience, to be around these guys full-time right now for a little bit, learn as much as possible from them, pick their brains, be like a sponge.
MLB.com: How excited were you when you got the invite to big league camp?
Pena: I was really excited. You grow up watching these guys on TV. These guys have been in the game for many years. Just being around them, it’s a really cool experience.
MLB.com: New England is a tough place to play baseball and you went to high school in Rhode Island. And Maine, where you went to college, is not exactly a hotbed, either. Was there ever any concern that you wouldn’t get noticed playing up there?
Pena: That was never the focus. The focus was never to get noticed. I was just going to a program where I thought I was going to develop as best as possible as a player. We had a great coaching staff, we had great facilities. It is cold but we had everything indoors. As soon as I saw the facilities, I knew it was the place for me. It did work out, so I can’t really complain.
MLB.com: What’s the biggest positive, and maybe a negative, about being the son of a former big leaguer?
Pena: There are a lot of positives. Just having that in your back pocket, he’s a call away, whenever you need any advice. Not everyone has that. He’s played the game at the highest level, so he has a lot of good information. I don’t think there are many negatives.
MLB.com: There isn’t a higher level of expectations because you’re a Pena?
Pena: My dad doesn’t really put that pressure on me. He always tells me to go out there and do what you can do, prepare as best as possible and perform. I’ve always been thankful for that.
MLB.com: He obviously had a nice big league career. Is there any motivation to sort of one-up your dad?
Pena: Always. I can’t say anything at the dinner table because he always brings up, “But I’m a big leaguer, you’re still a Minor Leaguer.” It’s good to have him there.
MLB.com: You came into pro ball maybe known more for your defense than your bat, but you made some tremendous offensive gains last year. What can you attribute that to?
Pena: I’ve never really considered myself just a defender. I’ve always known that I had that. I’ve always known that I can hit, so it was just a matter of time developing, tweaking little things here and there and I always knew it was going to click eventually. I’m glad last year was a good year, but still, we have a lot of things to work on, so I’m excited for next year.
MLB.com: What was the Arizona Fall League like last year, just in terms of getting a glimpse of the levels above you?
Pena: It was pretty cool. It was a really nice experience. I’ve never been to Arizona. You’re playing the best Minor Leaguers. It was a pretty cool experience, kind of see where you stack up against those guys and know what to take into the offseason.
MLB.com: You’ve moved around a bit defensively so far in your career. What’s it like coming to the park and maybe not knowing where you’re going to be playing in any given day? Would you prefer just to play shortstop and settle in at one spot?
Pena: We play the shift a lot, so you have to be able to turn the double play from the second base side, you have to be able to turn the double play from the shortstop side, so it’s not really a big drastic change moving around. We do play the shift, so it’s pretty much moving around anyway.
MLB.com: You grew up in Rhode Island, you went to school in Maine. When people complain about the weather down here, do you tell them to stop?
Pena: I told myself that I was never going to complain about the heat when I was in Maine because I was complaining about the cold. Whenever it’s hot down here, I just wear it. I grew up in the Dominican, I was born in the Dominican, so I kind of have that, too.