Pena goes old school in the offseason

Pena goes old school in the offseason
January 24, 2013, 4:45 pm
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Carlos Pena takes kids on a shopping spree

Back to the basics. It’d be easy to think that a Major League player would be beyond such simplicity, but for Carlos Pena, one of the Astros offseason acquisitions, it’s been words to live by.

The big hitting first baseman/DH has always had a big bat, as his 277 career home runs can attest, but it hasn’t gotten him on base reliably over the last four seasons. Pena hasn’t hit better than .230 in a season since 2008.

So in an effort to get things back to the level he was when he won a Silver Slugger Award and finished in the top 10 in MVP voting twice, Pena went old school with his teaching methods. Pena went back to his father to work with him in the offseason.

“It’s been pretty cool, actually,” Pena said Thursday. “Those workouts have gone really well. I remember having great rounds of batting when I was younger. It’s been refreshing. It has a way of re-energizing a person just to be able to hang out with Dad as much as I have has been very powerful.”

Pena and his father went through workouts growing up in Massachusetts in a converted racquetball court with hockey nets rigged as an L-cage during the cold New England winters. Now his parents are down in Orlando with Pena, where the weather is much different but his message isn’t.

“He always focuses on making contact and staying small,” Pena said about his father’s advice. “Because of the power that I already possess there’s no need to try to hit the ball with power, it’s already there.”

“This last weekend it was all about contact, contact, contact,” Pena continued. “Don’t worry about how far the ball goes, as simple as that sounds. See the ball hit the barrel and trust me, the ball will go as far as (I) can take it.”

For someone who’s been in the Major Leagues it might seem difficult going back to the beginning and listening to Dad when it comes to hitting. Remember, Pena’s stepped to the plate in the Major Leagues more than 5,000 times in his career.

“Oh man, I just sit there and listen,” Pena said with a laugh. “I think the tendency sometimes is to (say) ‘I’m the big leaguer, I’m the one who’s supposed to know Dad, you don’t know anything.’ That might be the natural way, but I’m the type of guy who likes to listen and keep my mouth shut and keep myself humble. Understand I may learn. Dad can come up with something and spark something in me.”

 Pena last worked with his son back when he was in college playing in the Cape Cod League. If satisfaction with how the workouts are going are any indication, Pena will be ready to go when the Astros start playing games.