CARSON CITY – Western Nevada College starting catcher Jerome Pena waited three days but finally heard the call he was waiting for. The New York Mets selected the sophomore in Round 40 of the Major League Baseball draft Thursday.
“It’s very big,” Pena, of Cave Creek, Ariz., said by phone. “It’s what I’ve worked for.”
Pena helped lead his Wildcats baseball team to a third place finish in the NJCAA Division I Baseball World Series last month, and has committed to play next year at college baseball powerhouse Texas Christian University.
“I’m taking this seriously,” Pena said of the draft, but added, “I have a good thing going at TCU, too.” He plans to meet with a New York Mets representative tomorrow, Pena said.
Wildcats Coach DJ Whittemore said he and Jerome were aware that the Mets had an interest in the catcher, who achieved a .989 fielding percentage this year along with 44 hits, including seven home runs and 33 RBIs.
“Jerome has been a great leader for us,” Whittemore said. “We’re really proud of him.”
Pena was one of the keys to the Wildcats’ successful run in the JUCO World Series, both behind the plate and with triples against Middle Georgia College and Shelton State College, to help WNC advance in the tournament.
Pena and two other WNC players, pitcher Jordan Lewis and third baseman
Travis Feiner, were selected to the 2009 JUCO All-Tournament Team.
He also adds to the growing list of Wildcats players who have been drafted, including three pitchers who were drafted last year: Kyle Farrell, Jose Barajas, and Josh Moody.
Whittemore said it’s possible that more stellar Wildcats players weren’t drafted this year because they are such a high-achieving academic group of students – several, like Pena, have offers to play baseball at top tier Division I universities next year.
Meanwhile, Pena has a win-win decision to make, Whittemore said. “He’s got a great education to pursue, and he’s got his childhood dream pulling at him.”