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Peña livin’ the dream in Arizona rookie league

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He is more than 2,300 miles away from both his childhood home in Miami Beach, and his collegiate home of Manhattan College. And he is surrounded by people he has known for roughly a month. 

Yet Fabian Peña could not be happier these days as he chases a dream he’s had for as long as he can remember.

This past June that dream — of one day playing Major League Baseball — got a major boost when the San Francisco Giants selected the former Jaspers catcher in the 25th round of baseball’s amateur draft. Now for the past month and some change, Peña has been honing his skills with the Arizona League Giants in rookie ball. 

It may not sound glamorous, but as Peña puts it, he’s “living the dream.”

“I’m doing well,” Peña said “So far so good.”

Peña’s days are all about baseball now, 24/7. When he’s not playing or practicing, he’s absorbing all he can from coaches and teammates. The novelty and newness of Peña’s current situation has worn off. Now it’s all about the business of molding himself into a Major League-caliber player.

“I wake up every day, and I’m like, ‘OK, this is my job now, and it’s only the beginning,’” Peña said. “I get up every day and think, ‘OK, what do I have to do today to get better?’ I just keep working so that I can move up (minor league) levels, and get to where I want to be.”

Peña’s days are regimented, beginning early and continuing late into the night.

“You get up and go over to the complex at 10:30 to do some lifting until 11:30,” Peña said. “Then we go back and rest and have lunch. And at around 3 o’clock, we get picked up again go back to the complex to get ready for practice before a game.”

His team practices until about 6. “That leaves us about an hour before our game that starts at 7 o’clock.”

Peña and the Giants play games for four straight days before they get an off day. Their schedule remains that way throughout the season.

“We play against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Mariners, Padres, the Cubs and the Angels out here,” Peña said. “All the complexes for the teams are pretty close to each other. I think the longest bus ride we have is about an hour long.”

So Peña has managed to avoid the dreaded long overnight bus rides synonymous with minor league baseball. But that will likely change as he moves up the ranks, even to short-season or advanced A leagues.

“In those leagues I know you do travel a lot,” Peña said. “It’s long rides to play series and stuff. But not in rookie ball.”

So far this season, Peña is hitting a healthy .281 with four doubles, a triple, one homer and 11 RBIs. He also is hitting a robust .333 in his last 10 games. 

But as important as the numbers are, it’s the feedback he receives from his coaches that really makes a difference for Peña.

“I get feedback from coaches every day,” he said. “Whatever aspect of your game that you’re working on, they tell you what they think and they put things into perspective for you. But at the end of the day, it’s your numbers and your game and your performance, and that’s what they grade you on. 

“My hitting coach is always talking to me about hitting, and we have a very good chemistry. It’s always good to get feedback from coaches after your performance to see where you stand in their eyes.”

There had been no talk of a promotion to a higher level yet, Peña said, and he figures he’ll finish the season, which ends on Aug. 27, right where he is. But that’s all right by him.

“After spring training next year, I’ll see where they place me,” Peña said.

So for the time being, Peña will continue to work on his hitting stroke and refine his catching skills, all the while realizing he is lucky to be doing what he loves to do.

“This is something that I’ve dreamed of all my life, and I’m getting to do it,” Peña said. “I can just wake up every day and just focus on baseball. It’s a grind day in and day out, but I do love it and I enjoy every day. 

“I’m living the dream.”

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