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Peña looks to become MLB’s next big hit

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Fabian Peña’s life may change dramatically come June. 

A junior catcher for the Manhattan College baseball team, Peña is one of the most — if not the most — decorated players in Jaspers’ history. And he’s only been around two seasons.

Already in his brief career, Peña pulled off a freshman year daily double when he earned both Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rookie of the year honors while also being named to the All-MAAC First team — a rarity for a freshman. 

That season, Peña turned in what is arguably the finest year in Manhattan history when he hit .350 (fourth in the MAAC), laced 75 hits (third in the MAAC), slugged a school-record and MAAC-best 22 doubles, and knocked in a conference-leading 54 RBIs, all while being named MAAC player of the week four times.

He also has twice been named to the Johnny Bench Watch List, which honors the top catcher in Division I in the nation. Peña has earned All-MAAC First Team honors two seasons running, and right before this season year, he was named by Baseball America the top pro prospect in the MAAC. 

Now this June, all his hard work could pay off handsomely when he expects to hear his named called in the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. It’s a day he has long thought about. But now that it’s drawing closer, Peña has decided to put his dream on the back burner.

“I’m not really thinking about it right now,” Peña said. “I’m just trying to play my game and not worry about that. It’s going to happen on its own. So I just try to focus on my game, my team and what we need to do to win games. 

“The rest of the stuff will take care of itself when the time comes.”

Peña remains even-keeled about his baseball future, even playing down his diamond accomplishments through his first two seasons. When asked what the endorsement from Baseball America — the bible of amateur baseball — meant to him, he tried to downplay it.

“It’s a great accomplishment, I guess,” Peña said. “I’ve been working hard to this point. It’s my junior year and I’m finally draft eligible, and some things have gone well for me, so I’m just looking forward to the season and where I might go in the draft this year.”

As a general rule, college baseball players at Northeast schools fly under the radar while players at schools in the warm climates in the south and west draw much of the attention from Major League scouts. 

Peña, however, put himself on a national stage last summer when he was chosen to participate in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League. It was that stint Peña thinks helped turn some scouting eyes his way.

“I think the Cape was definitely a spark for me,” said Peña, who hit a solid .275 with four doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs with the Chatham Anglers. “You come back the following year more mature and with a better perspective of your abilities and your game in general. I think the Cape was a great experience for me because I was able to show my skills.”

If there is such a thing as a gym rat in baseball, Peña is the definition. He puts in countless hours of work, not only during the season, but in the winter months as well. 

It’s the only way, he says, to rise to the top.

“It’s a game of repetition, and it’s never perfect, so you’ve got to keep working at it,” said Peña, who just earned MAAC player of the week honors again mashing .438 with two doubles, two homers, seven runs scored and eight RBIs. “I put a lot of time and work into my game, and I think that’s the best thing you can do as an athlete. Try and perfect your game, and you do that by practicing with whatever free time you have.”

While Peña is focused entirely on the Jaspers’ season right now, he has reached out to former Manhattan teammate Tom Cosgrove for advice on all things draft related. Cosgrove, a former Jaspers’ pitcher, was plucked away by the San Diego Padres last June. 

“I just ask him questions about the whole process, and he gives me advice just so I know what I’m walking into,” Peña said. “I’m getting prepared to see what happens to me in the future, so it’s good to have a friend who can guide you through it.”

It’s a little less than three months until the June 4 draft, and Peña is inching closer to his dream with each passing day.

“Since I was a little kid that’s been my dream, to play professional baseball,” Peña said. “I’ve been playing baseball my whole life, so I want to see if I can get a shot at making my dream come true.” 

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