July 5, 2022

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Peña's first homer interrupts parents' interview

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ANAHEIM — It was a moment the Peña family will never forget, especially considering the emotions and excitement were captured live on television for everyone to see.

Cecilia and Geronimo Peña were being interviewed from the stands on the Apple TV+ broadcast during the seventh inning when their son, Jeremy Peña, blasted his first career homer and ignited a rally that sent the Astros to a 13-6 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium on Friday night.

Peña said teammate Justin Verlander told him in the dugout that his parents’ reaction was caught on camera during his homer. He rushed to check out the clip for himself after the game.

“You don’t plan that,” Peña said. “When they told me they got that on camera, it was pretty awesome.”

That was only part of a memorable night for the Astros’ No. 1 prospect, who added a double later in the inning and finished a triple shy of the cycle in his second Major League game. Peña singled in the second inning off fellow top prospect Reid Detmers for his first Major League hit and finished 3-for-5.

“I always say the first one is always the hardest,” Peña said. “Once I saw it go past the infield, it was an unreal feeling. I can’t really put it into words. It’s what you work for your whole life and it’s a dream come true.”

Geronimo Peña, who spent seven years in the Major Leagues from 1990-96, including six with the Cardinals, couldn’t stop smiling.

“It’s like winning the lottery,” he said.

The Peñas, who live in Providence, R.I., were being interviewed by Apple TV+ reporter Heidi Watney while their son was batting in the seventh.

“I know he has a lot of good people around him,” Geronimo told Watney, right before Peña crushed a slider from Mike Mayers and sent it 423 feet over the left-field wall for his first home run.

“Now he takes him deep,” he said with a smile as he and his wife rose from their seats in excitement.

“Happy, happy, happy now,” Geronimo said.

Later, Geronimo said the moment was the product of the hard work his son put in to reach the Major Leagues. The family was well-represented in the stands, with Jeremy’s two sisters, two of his brothers, his grandmother and many friends in attendance.

“We all put a little bit aside for him,” Geronimo said. “We always tried to do the best for him and support him. Whatever comes is good for us. We’re going to try. He always is going to give the best he’s got. He worked hard and got here and God is watching him.”

“I’m so very happy for him,” Cecilia said.

Peña had the ball from first hit and home run in clear plastic protective cases after the game. Retrieving the ball following his single was a bit dicey, with an Angels batboy nearly throwing it into the stands.

“I was going to fight somebody,” Peña joked. “It was cool. At the moment, I wasn’t really worried about the ball. I was just glad that I got the first one out of the way and got on first base.”

When summing up the night, Peña said it was more than he even could have dreamed.

“You always imagine the moment, but you don’t really know what it is until you’re in it,” he said. “I thought I had a clear vision of what it was going to be like, but this has been even more, even better than what I had planned.”

With his first hit and home run out of the way, Peña can begin to carve his own path out from the shadow of Carlos Correa, whom he replaced at shortstop this year for the Astros.

“That was a big night for him,” manager Dusty Baker said. “You want to see him get that first hit, and that breaks the ice and now we can go to work.”

Peña went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and made a throwing error in his Major League debut in Thursday’s Opening Day win. Geronimo said he was nervous watching his son Thursday and had some advice for him after the game.

“’Play your game,’” he told him. “’Everything you did to make it here, this is the way you’re going to play.’”

Geronimo said that just because his son has made his impact, it’s not a time for him to stop striving.

“I know it’s hard, but his talent is going to come through,” he said.

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