Nearly 13 years have passed since a 23-year-old Carlos Pena hit his first home run as a Texas Ranger. Pena, now 36, turned back the clock Wednesday night with a solo home run that snuck just inside the right field foul pole in the sixth inning.
Exit baseball, enter unbridled jubilation.
“I felt like a kid out there. I was so excited when I hit the home run, I almost missed first base,” Pena said, smiling ear to ear. “I don’t hesitate to admit that. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
A lot changed between Pena’s home runs with Texas. Before Tuesday, his last four-bagger came on September 28, 2001. His opponent was just the Anaheim Angels, and his hit sailed into the stands of a stadium with a beautifully simple title, The Ballpark in Arlington.
But Pena said watching the ball leave the field is no different as a seasoned veteran.
“It felt wonderful,” he said. “It was very much like the first one,” he said.
Pena’s homer, part of a two-hit night, came in just his ninth professional game this season and second with the Rangers. He was unemployed on June 16, and batting sixth with a no. 21 Texas Rangers jersey on by June 24.
“It’s one of those things that is so out of the norm that you just have to embrace it,” he said.
While the home run on Wednesday would have been sweeter in a victory, Pena is excited to keep trying to help the club get back on track - and he isn’t taking the opportunity to make a difference for granted.
“It’s only by the grace of God that I’m here. I cherish every single moment,” Pena said. “Every single time I can contribute, whichever way that may be, I’m going to enjoy it.”
He said the only way to take advantage of an opportunity is to be calm and enjoy yourself. And based on that description, he’s taking full advantage of his second stint as a Ranger, even after 13 years spent with eight different clubs.
“The moment you go out there and you feel like it doesn’t matter or your heart doesn’t race, there’s no goosebumps, it’s time to check yourself,” he said.
Even in what many call a lost season, Carlos Pena is getting goosebumps when he steps to the plate.
Here’s to the love of the game.