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The Pena Family Legacy Continues in Burlington, North Carolina with Tony Jr.

January 13, 2020 - Appalachian League (ApL) - Burlington Royals News Release

He grew up watching his father Tony Peña, former major league player, coach, and manager play the game he always loved. The Peña family's passion for America's pastime is in their heart & soul, and instilling that same passion they have in the players of today.

What makes for an excellent manager in the sport of baseball? Is it more the training or the inner qualities? Or is it simply artistry, strategy, technique, and pure luck in a game where nothing is predictable?

About a week ago Tony Peña Jr. received the news that he would be the manager of the Burlington Royals, a rookie advanced affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, for the upcoming season.

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Tony was born in the Dominican Republic, where his first memory was playing baseball. An undated childhood photo of him somewhere still lives in his parents' home where he has the essential pieces to 'play ball': A bat, glove, and baseball.

He grew up watching his father Tony Peña, former major league player, coach, and manager play the game he always loved. The Peña family's passion for America's pastime is in their heart & soul, and instilling that same passion they have in the players of today.

"The love I have for the game is something I honestly don't know how to describe. It's a dream come true, as a kid I dreamed about being a MLB player, following in my dad's footsteps. Now, as a coach, I have the opportunity to help the players reach their dream and hopefully, they can accomplish their goal. As a player or a coach, being able to wake up in the morning and get to go to the place you can be a kid, and do what you love to do, is priceless."

Once he accepted the position, the first person he told was his father, followed by his mother and brother.

"My father was happy and excited for this new challenge. He told me to continue to do what I have been doing, have fun, and keep trying to help those kids reach their goal."

Tony realized that he wanted to become a coach when he was still playing the game. He noticed he was passing on the advice he learned throughout the years. When asked how much of an impact his father made on him during his time as a player and coach, he said:

"It's honestly been a blessing to be in my shoes growing up around the game as a kid having a father that has had so much experience as a player, manager, and coach. I have learned so much from him, and his career."

Peña Jr., an undrafted free agent, was signed by the Atlanta Braves in 1999. He would end up making his major league debut in 2006 with the Braves. On March 23rd, 2007, he was traded to the Kansas City Royals. After his time with the Royals, he went on to play for two other major league clubs before making the move to the Mexican Baseball League from 2016-2017. In 2017, he returned to the Royals on a minor league deal, where he would finish his playing career.

He spent the 2019 baseball season as manager of the Arizona League Royals, where the team had a 33-23 (.589) record. He was able to coach alongside Ramon Castro, the hitting coach for the upcoming season in Burlington, North Carolina. He describes his coaching style as relaxed and built on forming strong communication with his players.

"I believe in having good communication with my staff and players. One of the most important keys to me is having a relationship with my players, building that trust that they know you are there for them in the development of their career and success."

The game has changed since Tony was signed in 1999, but the same challenges that minor league players have faced over the years are still there. If you are a former minor league athlete, or simply a fan of this game, you know how difficult the minor leagues can be.

"The travel was a challenge, and nutrition, which I feel has been one of the things that has improved for the benefit of the players, but after that, the game itself is the same regardless of where you are playing."

He is ultimately starting his career over now as a manager, as he is back where he started twenty years ago. When asked if he has any aspirations to be a manager at the major league level, truly following in the footsteps of his father (manager of the Royals from 2002-2005) he said this:

"My goal now is to just try and help players achieve their goals and reach their full potential. Being a MLB manager or coach is something I can't control. However, I can control trying to make a player better on and off the field. Being able to do that is the biggest accomplishment I can personally have."

Tony will serve as Omaha Storm Chasers bench coach, the Triple-A Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, before assuming managerial duties for the Burlington Royals. The Appalachian League season begins in June, with the Royal's first game on June 22nd against the Danville Reds.

Alex Feuz is the broadcaster and reporter for the Burlington Royals. You can follow @alexfeuz on Twitter.

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Appalachian League Stories from January 13, 2020

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