Pena Brings More Than Omahawk To Frogs
June 24, 2010
OMAHA, Neb. -- Colorful personalities have been a mainstay in baseball history on and off the field, from Manny Ramirez to Bill Veeck.
For the 2010 TCU Horned Frog baseball team, junior second baseman Jerome Pena takes on the role of being arguably the most visibly vibrant man on the roster. His consistent bat and the hair under his hat have been helpful reasons for the team's postseason success and first trip to the College World Series in school history.
Pena proudly displays what he calls an "Omahawk," a mohawk that he has used as a good-luck charm for the Frogs. It was initially greeted with skepticism from the coaching staff, but is something that has been embraced down the stretch.
"I had long hair sometime around February, and Coach (Jim Schlossnagle) told me to cut it," said Pena. "I left a mohawk and, at weights the next morning, he said to take it off (completely).
"I knew I wanted to do it again, so my roommate (teammate Kyle Starratt) and I both showed up to practice last month with it. I had asked Coach the night before if I could do an 'Omahawk,' and he said that was fine."
The new hairdo may have created some magic for TCU, who swept the Mountain West Conference Tournament and Fort Worth Regional, before winning the best-of-three Super Regional in Austin to reach a point no Frog team had been before.
Pena also experienced an added bonus at honorable Rosenblatt Stadium, ripping a solo shot into the right field seats for his 10th homer of the year to ignite a rally from five runs down that would see nine Frogs cross home over the next two innings en route to an 11-7 victory over Florida State.
"You have dreams of doing stuff like that," said Pena. "Most people dream of being in the College World Series, and to hit a home run there is something I can't believe."
In the next inning, Pena would get a front-row seat for perhaps the biggest home run in TCU history, a Matt Curry grand slam over the batter's eye in center field that gave TCU the lead for good at 9-7. Standing side-by-side with third-base coach Randy Mazey, Pena delivered a strong sermon.
"Before he even came up to bat, I said `Coach (Randy) Mazey watch this, Curry's going to come up big here,'" said Pena. "Next thing you know, there goes the home run, and even after I touched the plate I was still jumping [after jumping all the way from third]. It was the greatest feeling in my life."
As the Frogs remain one of four teams left in the CWS field, Pena can only bask in the decision he made upon leaving Western Nevada Community College last season. Despite being a 40th-round selection of the New York Mets, Pena believed that the right thing to do was to lengthen his amateur career in Fort Worth.
"Getting drafted is a dream come true because that's what you work for," said Pena. "I came to TCU because I needed to physically and mentally grow as a baseball player. I'm so glad I made that decision because I've also been able to play on the biggest stage at the College World Series."
With an average that has stayed safely above .300 all season, an excellent ability to maintain the starting second baseman role, and a bright attitude that has helped the Frogs reach the pinnacle of collegiate baseball, Pena has become a leading factor for his team's achievements. He is especially grateful that he chose to not sign with the Mets, and also pick TCU over other schools.
"I believe that things happen for a reason," said a smiling Pena. "I think I made the right choice."
By David Cohen, GoFrogs.com