BRONX, N.Y. — Ramiro Pena seemed a bit out of place at last year’s Futures Game, didn’t he?
If you picked up any of the prospect books or magazines, you had to flip through quite a few pages to get to his name, and that’s if he was even in there at all.
But there was Pena, getting to play at the original Yankee Stadium, sharing the field with players who seemed destined to play Major League Baseball.
Matt LaPorta? He made his big league debut just yesterday.
Shairon Martis is the Nationals best starter.
Elvis Andrus just played on ESPN’s nationally televised Sunday Night Baseball.
And the list goes on and on.
And it’s now a list that includes Pena.
To everyone’s surprise, even his, Pena made the New York Yankees out of spring training. After playing a grand total of zero games at third base all of last season with the Trenton Thunder, that’s now where he’s been finding himself playing at the new Yankee Stadium, filling in until Alex Rodriguez returns from hip surgery.
Many people seem to think that Pena, who skipped Triple-A Scranton all together (outside for an appearance in the Bricktown Showdown last year) won’t be heading there anytime soon, even once A-Rod comes back.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with the friendly native of Monterrey, Mexico in the spacious clubhouse of the new Yankee Stadium. Here’s how the conversation went…
Mike Ashmore: I haven’t seen you since you helped the Thunder win the Eastern League Championship last year…it must have been quite a ride since then.
Ramiro Pena: “It’s been pretty good. Last year, things finished good (in Trenton), we won the championship. Then I went to Triple-A for a game, which was good. Spring training was good also.”
MA: I don’t think anyone gave you a chance to make this team out of spring training. What did you have to do this spring to more or less create this opportunity for yourself?
Pena: “I was working hard. Every day, I was focusing on my game. I was trying to move runners, steal bases, play good defense. Just be more consistent.”
MA: They have you playing third base up here…I don’t remember you playing third at all in Trenton.
Pena: “In the minor leagues, I didn’t ever play at third or second. In spring training, the coaches talked to me and said I’m going to start to play both positions. I was good with that. I started to practice some things at second. In the last half of spring training, I started to take some ground balls at third. And that helped me.”
MA: We talked about nobody really thinking you had a chance to make this team out of spring…but at what point did you feel like you had a legitimate chance to make it?
Pena: “At the end. When they said Alex was hurt, I thought maybe they need another guy. (I thought) I’m going to work hard, but I don’t think I’m going to have that chance. I just tried to work hard and make a good impression.”
MA: This clubhouse has got to be 20 times bigger than what you had in Trenton last year. Tell me what it’s like to be in here and to be a part of this…
Pena: “It’s amazing being in this clubhouse with all these guys. Playing games, everything. It’s good, man.”
MA: Tell me about getting to play in the new Yankee Stadium and being a part of something special like this…
Pena: “It’s good. The first day here, Opening Day…I thought I might be here at some point in the season, but I never thought I’d be here for Opening Day, you know. That was special.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com