Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 9:58 p.m. Updated: 11:44 p.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
VIDEO: Dempster gushes over Pena
VIDEO: Quade finds Pena clutch vs. LHP
VIDEO: Johnson describes rocket throw home
As a young boy in the Dominican Republic, Carlos Pena would run underneath the stands at Quisqueya, and be blown away when he got out of the darkness and saw the entire stadium lit up. Some 25 years later, he had the same experience at Clark and Addison.
I walk up the ramp and you see that light at the end of the tunnel, Pena said in April. You come up and its like the gates of heaven have opened when you see Wrigley Field at the end.
Tampa Bay people told the Cubs that youre going to think this is an act, until you realize that Pena is like this all the time.
This season hasnt gone as planned another fifth-place finish, a general manager fired, empty green seats but Pena has been just about what the Cubs hoped hed be on the field and in the clubhouse.
At times, Pena sounds delusional. But hes the eternal optimist. Thats why it wouldnt be surprising if he was your starting first baseman in 2012.
Pena began Wednesday hitting .135 against lefties, and .155 with runners in scoring position. So when the Reds intentionally walked Aramis Ramirez to get to Pena in the eighth inning of a tie game, he wasnt focused on the negatives.
Pena smashed the first pitch he saw from lefty Bill Bray an 85 mph changeup onto Sheffield Avenue for a three-run homer that lifted the Cubs to a 6-3 victory at Wrigley Field. The Cubs (62-81) have six home games left before what promises to be a wild winter.
I keep on saying that I wish the season was longer, Pena said. I make sure that I really soak it all in (and) really take advantage of every single second that I have (with) my teammates, with this ballclub, with this uniform at Wrigley.
Pena would be in the minority on that one the citys already checked out and looking forward to the Bears season. But hes been exactly as advertised, the good and the bad: .227 average, 26 home runs, 72 RBI, .355 on-base percentage, Gold Glove defense.
Hes got a crazy amount of picks, said Ryan Dempster, who gave up three runs in six innings and got a no-decision. Hes been unbelievable over there. (Its) not just what he does with the bat, but what he does with his glove, the energy he brings every day. Hes been a huge contributor for us and a great teammate.
Theres not a bad word to say about him. Thats the truth.
Everyone assumed Pena was a mercenary, a one-year rental. But the Cubs held onto him at the trade deadline, and pulled him back when the Yankees made a waiver claim last month. So that the next general manager would have the option of re-signing him.
Penas Zen philosophy didnt guide him to a pennant race in New York, and it will probably resonate with ownership. While everyone else wonders what chairman Tom Ricketts is up to, Pena sees another light at the end of the tunnel. Believe it or not.
I understand the hunger, Pena said. I also see the desire (to) really give this city what it deserves. I know that everyone longs to see the Cubs win. (This) organization has an extreme desire to actually bring a championship here. As far as it may look at times, I see it coming. I really do.
Darwin Barney missed Wednesdays game to be with his wife as she gives birth to their second child. Hes expected to rejoin the team this weekend in New York. Starlin Castro has reached base safely in 21 straight games. The 21-year-old shortstop leads the National League with 182 hits and is on pace to finish with 206. The Cubs and Pabst Brewing Co. announced that Old Style which has been served at Wrigley Field since 1950 will be back for the next two seasons.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.