HOUSTON -- The smile on Jeremy Peña’s face was as large as it’s ever been, which is saying something. The Astros star shortstop couldn’t help it as he watched a group of schoolchildren take a new pair of bright white cleats and begin writing on them with multicolored Sharpies.
They scribbled their names, drew hearts and wrote “King,” “GOAT,” “Fun” and “Go Astros!” on the cleats. Peña decided he wanted to be surprised by the design and looked away while the kids finished taking turns with the markers. He planned to wear the size-11 spikes during Friday’s game against the White Sox, something he plans to do each Friday home game for deserving children.
“We’ve been working with New Balance to get all-white spikes and let them customize it and add their own little flavor to it, little flair to it, and I’ll be wearing them in the game,” Peña said. “Pretty cool.”
The inaugural group of Peña’s Pals -- five children from Spence Elementary in Houston’s Aldine area -- were chosen because of good grades and excellent character. The kids got to spend time with Peña on the field during batting practice while their teachers watched from the stands. A different group of kids will be chosen each week from area schools.
“They get recommended by teachers, and we bring them out to the ballgame and have a good time,” Peña said. “They get to hang out with me, watch some baseball and eat some good food. We got it on Fridays. They don’t have school tomorrow, so they can watch fireworks and have a good time.”
Peña’s popularity has blossomed since he was named the Most Valuable Player of last year’s American League Championship Series and World Series. The 25-year-old said he understands he’s in position to be a positive role model for kids, which is why he decided to start Peña’s Pals.
“It’s special for them to come out,” he said. “I know it takes a lot for the parents to maybe leave work early and bring the kids out to the ballgame. I appreciate that. It’s something I’m doing to give back to the kids and have a good time.”