Peña’s baseball pedigree is unmistakable. In 1997, he was born in Santo Domingo, the capital of the baseball-crazy Dominican Republic. His father, Gerónimo, played in parts of seven seasons with St. Louis and Cleveland, his final season coming in 1996. Although Jeremy never saw his father play, he grew up wanting to know everything about that life.
“Every time when we were eating breakfast or dinner or lunch, we’d always stay at the table for like an extra 45 minutes just talking about him or what he had to go through or my mom as well,” Peña said. “Them just making it out of whatever they had to get through to provide for us.”
When Jeremy was 12, the Peñas moved to Providence, R.I., following an aunt who was already there. Peña didn’t speak any English. He said that it was tough at first but that there was a large Dominican population and he had teachers who also spoke Spanish.
“I learned a lot on the baseball field,” he said. “My teammates were bilingual, and they would teach me the basics, and I would apply that in school. And we’d go back and forth for a year, year and a half, and I was already having full conversations.”
Admittedly skinny and small then, Peña wasn’t a highly touted prospect out of Classical High School when the Atlanta Braves selected him in the 39th round of the 2015 draft. He didn’t sign and instead attended the University of Maine. He said the cold climate and shoveling snow off the field built character while allowing him to grow. (He also ate more and started lifting weights.) Three years later, the Astros took him with the 102nd pick of the draft.
After dealing with shin splints and an underwhelming first season in the minors, Peña went to a private training facility outside Boston that was frequented by some major league players to, in his words, get his body right. Peña is listed now at 6 feet and 202 pounds, displaying the added strength and speed that helped him shoot through the minors. He has tried to model his style of play, he said, after the former Mets shortstop José Reyes.