When Carlos Peña returned "home" to the Rays after a one-year stint with the Cubs, he said he felt like he never left. The team leader, slugger and Gold Glove first baseman is also a Renaissance man — a fan of film, travel and literature — which is evident in this discussion with Times staff writer Joe Smith.
You've talked about how much you love the area. What's your favorite spot in Tampa Bay?
I love the beach, all the St. Pete beach, that area is beautiful. It's laid back, a very special place. To just walk around there, drive around Gulf Boulevard, it's beautiful.
Other than your family, what three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
I'd have my computer, a book and a big sack of platanos (fried plantains).
Your favorite book?
One of my favorite books is The Alchemist. Anything in that genre is awesome. It's inspiring, it's calming and soothing, thought-provoking. It's a feel-good book. I love it.
Gladiator. It's hard to beat. It blows my mind. The photography of it is awesome, the storyline is awesome. It's inspiring.
Must-see TV show?
The History Channel, they have a series called The Universe. I love it. Pretty much anything on the History Channel, I love, it's my favorite channel. I'm a big fan of history. It's entertaining and educational. When I'm watching it, I get lost, it's a good getaway.
Band you'd like to be on stage with?
The Gipsy Kings (laughing).
Since you didn't play yourself in Moneyball, who should play you on the big screen?
Where all have you traveled overseas?
All over the Caribbean, and in Europe, to France, to Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Hawaii. I think going to Rome and to Venice and Florence, those places are so special. That trip is always memorable.
Most memorable souvenir you've brought back?
I went to a winery in Tuscany, and it was so beautiful there, and I brought back some wine from that particular vineyard. I thought that's pretty cool, and I have it at home.
Best dad activities with daughter, Isabella, 4, and son, Nicolas, 1?
Going on walks with them. It's pretty cool. Sometimes my baby and I like to pull the little
wagon, and my daughter walks or sometimes jumps in and we go around, and just go for a walk.
Your dad, Felipe, is an electrical engineer, your brother, Pedro, a Ph.D. What would you do if you weren't playing baseball?
Something to do with film, something where I could be really creative. Film makes so much sense, that was my minor in college, and it was my minor for a reason. Film is one of those things that there's only one of the senses that is not experienced and that's smell, and touch. But those senses could be suggested through film, so it's the closest thing you have to reality.
The hardest job you've ever had?
When I was a kid, we used to work on this farm. It wasn't particularly an easy job, but we enjoyed it, preparing the market, we were around all these beautiful vegetables and fruit. It was early in the morning. When 12 o'clock came, it was hot as heck. But it was a group of friends and we had a blast. We learned a lot about agriculture, how to cultivate and nurture the plants. It was a very earthly job, you were in tune with nature.
Favorite Joe Maddon saying?
"Try easier." It's Zen-like, very powerful. I like it. Of course, he's very Zen.
I can draw really well. I'm very artistic, I would say my penmanship is very good. That's a forte of mine, arts. I've always took pride in penmanship, when you see my notebooks, you're like, "Whoa, they're very nice, neat and good-looking!" It is a lost art.
You said there are still a few chapters you have left with the Rays; what would be a fitting final one?
I think everyone would quietly or inside all of us, we know exactly how we would like that chapter to end. But even my most sublime suggestion for that chapter may dwarf it, so I don't want to do that. Whatever I can imagine, it's probably not going to be as good.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com