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Fabian Peña: A Journey From Cuba and a Dream of Playing in MLB

by VICTORIA L. HERNANDEZ, Senior Writer

Manhattan College junior Fabian Peña started playing baseball when he was seven years old in Cuba. He joined his parents in the USA for better opportunities and a better future. That better future would be achieved by fulfilling his one goal: becoming a professional baseball player in Major League Baseball.

Peña, like any other kid, started playing in the streets.

“My grandpa taught the game to me,” Peña said. “We always played together. He took me to the local team in Cuba.”

However, he transitioned from the rusty Cuban streets to playing for the Cuban national team in Venezuela really quick.

Growing up, he looked up to Alex Rodriguez and Salvador Perez. His ultimate idol though, was Derek Jeter.

Playing in Cuba and transitioning to an American team in the United States wasn’t easy.

“In Cuba everyone plays callejero, more aggressive,” Peña said. “Here, everyone follows the rules, remains calm and [does] their job.”

Despite those differences, Peña has succeeded tremendously and even he downplays his achievements when asked about all the titles he has received. Some of these achievements include being named to the First Team All-MAAC twice and being on the Johnny Bench Award Watch List twice. He was also a Freshman All-American, MAAC Rookie of the Year, Northeast Region Rookie of the Year and 2018 MAAC Preseason Player of the Year.

“It boosts [your] confidence,” Peña said. “It makes you feel like what you’re doing is actually paying off, like all the hard work has a meaning behind it.”

When asked about his success and achievements, Peña touched upon the confidence he has in himself, while staying humble.

“I didn’t know about all these achievements until I got them” Peña said. “I trust my game. I’m confident in what I do. I know I can do it if I put my mind to it”

Pena

Peña’s list of achievements include MAAC Rookie of the Year and 2018 MAAC Pre-season Player of the Year. GOJASPERS / COURTESY

He can be easily considered the team’s most valuable player and his teammates are very supportive of him. At the same time they even consider him the “team clown.” How does he manage the pressure to perform and put on a happy face?

“It’s just my personality,” Peña says. “It’s my job to keep everybody loose and bring a good sense of humor. It just happens naturally.”

Has everything ever been this good for the 21-year-old?

According to him, baseball is a game of failure.

“You’re gonna fail more times than you succeed,” Peña said. “There’s just minor setbacks that you can deal with one day at a time. At the end of the day all you can do is learn from it.”

Amongst all the setbacks, and many more successes, Peña realized he could make it to the next level early on.

“I always dreamed and pictured myself playing at the next level, being a professional baseball player,” Peña said. “I came to college with a mindset.”

He sees college as a way to show off his talents and as simply another step closer to going pro.

“Going to the Cape and performing well in front of the scouts set me in the path of being looked at and the possibility of being drafted.” Peña said.

But apart from baseball, what does Peña do?

When he’s not practicing with the team or on his own, his passion are video games.

If baseball wasn’t an option in his life, he may be playing more video games, but he wouldn’t be playing another sport.

“I am an athlete in the whole sense of the word, but I don’t think I would play any other sport,” Peña said. “I don’t know if I could play basketball because I’m not tall. I don’t know if I would play soccer because I’m not that fast.”

Baseball fits just right, or like Latinos would say: “Como anillo al dedo.”

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