HOUSTON ( Associated Press) — When Jeremy Pena was playing at the University of Maine, coach Nick Durba used to see him early on campus.
“I was on the field every morning, running with a tire attached to the body with a rope,” Derba recalled this week. “He’s the only player I’ve coached in nine years who’s had a chance to work in front of me every day.”
Just four years after leaving Maine, Pea helped the Houston Astros reach the World Series in their rookie season. The Dominican shortstop’s next challenge is the first game of the World Series, this Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He has outdone everyone else at work,” Derba said. “You can see in many Major League players that baseball is their source of joy and their sanctuary. And I think Jeremy really reflected that when he got here and lived in the country. He did what he wanted to do in class.” But the reality is that baseball was his true passion and on which he focused his life. And one can assure that.”
Pea hit .253 for the American League West champion Astros this year with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs. But the 25-year-old has become an unlikely figure in the playoffs in a team full of talented stalwarts.
In Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Seattle, Pea scored a single with two outs in the ninth inning. This set the stage for a home run by Cuba’s Yordan Alvarez, who scored three runs and gave Houston an 8–7 victory.
He hit another single in Game 2, before Alvarez’s home run helped the Astros to another victory.
But his best moment came in the third game. Neither team had scored in the 18th inning before Pea was thrown a fastball ball from Penn Murphy into the center-field stand.
It was their first playoff home run, and the Astros won 1–0 to complete the sweep.
Such a performance in their first series after the season was a prelude to further success in the next round.
Pea had two doubles and one single home run in Game 1 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees. He added a hit in the second game.
After a weak performance in the third, she got two hits, including a three-run homer, as Houston rolled up her second straight series.
Pea finished the championship series with a .353 average and .824 slugging percentage to win the Most Valuable Player trophy.
Relaxed and easy-going, Pea often shy away from attention, preferring to focus on the team. He did exactly that minutes after receiving the MVP trophy.
“I owe it to my teammates,” he said. “We show up every day, we’ve been true to ourselves all year round, and we’re one step closer to our ultimate goal.”