.- Houston Astros first baseman Carlos Peña has a passion for the game of baseball. The Dominican American Major League Baseball star said the game was a big part of his life growing up.
“When I was growing up in the Dominic Republic, baseball was considered the main sport,” Peña said. “My father introduced me to the sport and then I grew up to love it. With the support of my father and my mother, I continued to have the love for the game and continued to soar.”
However, he said his love for his Catholic faith and God is number one in his life and has helped him become the man he is today.
“I went to Catholic schools growing up and when I moved to the United States, we pretty much lived in the rough area of town but there was a church close by our house,” he said.
Peña said his parents and school teachers taught him to put God first.
“I was taught that you maintain your relationship with God is number one,” he said. “When you put God first, then everything else falls into place. And whenever the priorities get messed up, where God all of a sudden falls from number one to even number two, then you start to suffer. It’s something I think is trial and error that all of us can attest to.”
In his 14th season in the major leagues, Peña said his faith has definitely played a huge role in his playing career.
“Our life as baseball players is very difficult,” said the former first round draft pick. “I couldn’t imagine not having God to lean on. The fact that I’m even playing is a miracle of God. The main reason why I even have a uniform is because God wants me to have one.”
Peña believes it is a miracle being able to play a game that many don’t get a chance to.
“Throughout my career, God has definitely had a hand on it,” he said. “It’s very humbling and it is almost like, yes, I get to live this dream. But, since I get to live this dream, I make sure to serve Him.”
Peña said serving God is a priority of his.
“If it works for the kingdom, then it’s good,” Peña said. “Whenever you deviate from making sure you have religion in your life, then everything becomes more difficult when you try to do your own thing.”
Putting one’s faith first is all about discipline, according to Peña.
“Your priorities are right when you are walking the right path,” he said. “When you are focused and disciplined, then everything works for the good.”
The veteran said MLB accommodates players who want to put their faith first by having access to chapels and churches on Sunday.
“We have a cool system here in baseball,” he said. “On Sundays, they come to us and provide us with a chapel to worship and also provide a church because since we play on Sundays, sometimes it is very difficult to get to church. When we are playing at home, I make sure I go to church, especially during all of the off-season.”
The 35-year old said he does more to get involved in his faith.
“That is all good and great but as you become more disciplined, then there is more of a need for God and all of a sudden, you take on a more proactive approach,” he said. “I’m in it Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Whenever I can hear the word of God, I’m there. It’s important to really seek God whichever position you are in.”
The Gold Glove winner (2008) and 2009 All-Star Game participant (both as a Tampa Bay Ray) travels all over the country as a baseball player and says he always has his Bible with him.
“I make sure I have time to read the word of God and also have time for prayer,” he said. “I lead my dreams and requests to God and pray on a daily basis. Ever since I was a kid, I told God and prayed to him that if it is your will, let me be a baseball player. It was shown to me that I had to work hard and put forth a lot of effort to get here but I never forgot the number one priority was making sure that God allowed it.
“Every time I go out there on the field, I pray to my Savior that I can perform and do well."
Peña said critics who say that God doesn’t care about sports don’t get the nature of God.
“God is omnipresent and He is everywhere all at once,” Peña said.
“We shouldn’t put God in a box and say he is only there for Sundays. You need to bring Him with you everywhere you go. Whether you are a baseball player or working in an office, you need to bring Him with you. We are trying to be an expression of Him. I want to be the vehicle he uses to express myself to really build the kingdom. We are working for God at the end of the day. In my vocation as a baseball player, it is really cool to hit a home run because it feels like divine intervention, that God had a hand in it.”
Peña said God loves everyone.
“So I think it is wrong to think that God only cares about big things,” he said. “Of course he cares about big things but He also cares about trivial things. I also think it is silly to think that God only listens to certain prayers that are more important than others. I think it is silly to think that way. It goes against what God is.”
Having reached the World Series (with Tampa Bay) in 2008, Peña believes that God uses professional players like him to serve the youth.
“We have a platform here, where it’s cool to be a professional athlete,” he said. “This makes us have a power of influence over a lot of young people to bring people to church. There are a lot of distractions the youth have to deal with such as drugs, crimes, and peer pressure. But, when they see an athlete on television that’s hitting home runs and praising God at the same time, it sends a powerful message to them. So I think that’s how God uses me as a vehicle and I never take that for granted. It’s a gift from God. I make sure I use that platform for God.”
Posted with permission from the Catholic Sports Association, an organization dedicated to highlighting Catholic sports professionals and enriching junior high and high school student-athletes with Catholic sports articles, conferences, a Web series, and other programs.