Pena reunites with former Royals teammates
KANSAS CITY -- Brayan Pena was out to lunch with his old favorite pitcher, Bruce Chen, at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, a shopping area across the street from the Tigers' team hotel. One of his new favorite pitchers, Justin Verlander, spotted them and pretended to cause a scene.
"There was a lot of people there. Justin saw me and he called me a traitor, right in the middle of the street," Pena said. "He's like, 'Traitor! Traitor!' Right outside in the middle of the street."
Pena was bound to get some grief like that regardless. Chen was Pena's best friend on the Royals, and Pena is set to be in Chen's wedding party when he gets married in the offseason, but he's still the enemy for a few days.
That said, Kansas City will always be special for Pena, who spent four seasons here (2009-12) after Royals general manager Dayton Moore plucked him off waivers from Atlanta. Pena became a free agent last winter and found an opportunity to catch a veteran squad in Detroit, but never felt slighted by Kansas City letting him go.
"It's one of those places where you meet a lot of people. I do have a lot of friends here, and I come here to visit them," Pena said. "The fans, they were great to me and my family, very respectful. It's something you can always carry with you, the appreciation. Some days, I was going 0-for-4, and some days, I was having good games, and they were always the same, and when you walk down the street, people respect you and recognize you.
"It's nice, man. That being said, like I talked to the boys out there [earlier Monday], I said, 'You know what, I know you guys are going to be good, but not until we win the World Series. You guys have to wait for your time.' And they were laughing."
One thing Pena will not miss about this place is the hot summer weather. This week will serve as a reminder.
"That's why I was eating a lot of ice cream [here]," Pena said. "And [Tigers strength and conditioning coach] Javair [Gillett] took that away from me in Detroit!"
Pena misses his Kansas City teammates, but he has formed friendships with new ones in Detroit. The ice cream is another story.
"Definitely miss the ice cream," he said.