Ever since former Manhattan College baseball star Fabian Peña was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 2018 Major League Baseball amateur draft, he has had the same answer for anyone who asks him how things are going in his world.
“I’m living the life,” Peña likes to say.
And he continues to say it after completing his first spring training with the Giants in balmy Scottsdale, Arizona. Yes, while everyone in the Riverdale area was struggling to get through yet another freezing winter, Peña was busy chasing his baseball dreams in the Arizona desert, and he couldn’t be happier.
“It was a grind, but I loved it,” Peña said of his first taste of spring training. “I think it went by really fast. It just blew by. It was a lot of work, though. You’re always doing stuff from the first day you arrive at spring training, and you don’t stop until the last day. That’s what it felt like for me. There was a lot of work to get done.”
Being a catcher by trade — and with a couple hundred players in Giants spring training camp — Peña said there was more than enough work to keep him busy.
“There were a lot of bullpens (sessions), definitely a lot of bullpens,” Peña said with a laugh. “We had about 200 people at spring training, and of that 200, more than half were pitchers. So imagine getting all those bullpens in with everyone getting ready.”
Peña’s days began early and ended late. Not that he’s complaining, mind you. But if you’re not the type of player who eats, sleeps and dreams baseball, then spring training is not the place for you.
Peña met Stephen Vogt, a former Oakland A’s and Milwaukee Brewers catcher who signed with the Giants this year. Peña watched and learned from the veteran, absorbing as much baseball knowledge as he could. He also got to watch some of the Giants’ top pitching prospects during spring training, including Tyler Beede and Derek Rodriguez.
But it was catching another prospect, Jandel Gustave, that was most memorable.
“He was throwing 99 to 100 (mph) and he broke my mitt,” Peña said laughing. “He was really good, though.”
When camp finally broke and players were assigned to the Giants’ minor league affiliates, Peña remained in Scottsdale for extended spring training.
It was due to a numbers game, but his stay in Arizona will be a limited one before he heads off to either A-ball or High-A.
“I’m not sure how long I’m going to be here,” Peña said. “In my case, it’s a day-by-day thing. I spoke to the farm director on the last day of spring training and he told me it was a really hard decision not to have me on the starting rosters for the A-ball or High-A teams. But he said I’m going to be out of here soon enough. It’s a process, and for now I’m here.”
Peña received a lot of positive feedback from the Giants’ powers that be, and that has helped him deal with his extended stay in Arizona.
“The guys they sent on to A and High-A were older than me and had been with the organization longer,” Peña said. “But the director told me he liked everything I’ve been doing. He told me I’ve been throwing well, hitting well and catching well, and that everything I’ve been doing hasn’t gone unnoticed.”
Peña crossed paths a couple times with former Manhattan College teammate Tom Cosgrove, who is pitching for the San Diego Padres A-Ball team in Lake Elsinore, California. But his main focus has been doing what he can to continue moving forward with his dream.
“My next stop will either be A-ball, which is in Augusta, Georgia, or High-A, which is in San Jose,” said Peña, who also returned to Manhattan College last fall to take five classes, leaving him just four classes short of graduating. “But I have no doubt I’ll be moving on at some point. I’ve got nothing but compliments from the higher ups here.”
Four classes short of earning his degree in finance and pursuing his ultimate goal to one day be a starting catcher for the San Francisco Giants. Yes, life is good for Fabian Peña.
“I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again,” Peña said. “I’m just living the dream.”