The scary-looking, metal, medieval-style helmet mask that sits in Carlos Peña's locker — and occasionally on his head and those of his teammates — seems a bit out of place, even in the frat house known as the Rays clubhouse. • But only till the Rays first baseman explains his fanaticism for the movie Gladiator, from which it came.
Peña figures he has seen the 2000 film starring Russell Crowe more than 100 times, considering it not only "the best movie ever made" and "a piece of art," but something of a guiding force and its catchphrase, "Strength and Honor," a motto.
"Obviously, I think it's a great story line, and in some ways, I feel like I can identify with it," Peña said. "It's a story of a man who overcomes a lot of obstacles and who's totally committed to doing the right thing. It's very inspiring. I think it's very uplifting. So many times I watch it and I can't help but feel stronger, better, kind of fueled by it."
So sitting with new teammate Luke Scott in front of the big-screen TV in the clubhouse in Toronto a couple of weeks ago with some time to kill before a game, Peña suggested they put on Gladiator.
"Luke goes, 'Dude, that movie is the best.' And I'm like, 'Yeah, it is. It's awesome,' " Peña relayed. "So we got to talking about it and joking. And now every time I see him, I'm like, 'Strength and Honor,' and he laughs. And we do it over and over again."
Peña has seen the movie enough to spot mistakes. But for some reason this time, he was fixated on the helmet Crowe's character, Maximus, wore.
"I see Maximus get on his horse, and he puts his sword up and he has this mask," Peña said. "And I'm like, 'Dude, that mask is ridiculous. That mask is unbelievable. Look at this. Where can we get one of these?'
"And I'm thinking ahead: How cool would it be to have one of these in the clubhouse? We've got to have it."
Peña even sketched it out so they would have a point of reference. Scott found them on the Internet, and a few days later, they had a matching set. (And since, several players and manager Joe Maddon have inquired about ordering as well.)
As much as the movie is inspiring, Peña considers the helmets — which he and Scott sported for a postgame interview and relievers Fernando Rodney and Joel Peralta wore in the dugout — symbolic of how loose the clubhouse is.
"It's what it represents to this club," he said.
"I keep talking about how much fun we have. So being free in that regard is very powerful to be able to come in and enjoy ourselves and whatever idea we have."
You, too, can wear mask from 'Gladiator'
There are actually quite a few websites that sell Gladiator-style gear. Scott found their helmets at historicalclothingrealm.com, under the tab for Gladiator Movie replicas, for $285 each. And, be warned, he's talking now about buying swords and shields.
Thumbs-up from Peña
Peña is not only a huge movie buff, but "in some regards I'm a movie critic because I'm so interested in the art of it." We asked him for five favorites in addition to Gladiator, and he delivered quite an eclectic list, making a point to "not stay in one genre." The list:
Braveheart 50 First Dates
Just Go With It Iron Man
What about 'Moneyball'?
Peña has a unique perspective of the 2011 film Moneyball because he is in it. Well, he's in some game clips, but his character is played by Adrian Bellani.
Peña's trade from Oakland to Detroit is featured, though with considerable cinematic license: Peña was actually in the minors at the time, and the deal did not, as in the movie, include soda for the A's clubhouse.
Nevertheless, Peña liked the flick: "It was well done. The story was well portrayed. It could have used a little bit more flare. Brad Pitt did an unreal job (as A's GM Billy Beane). My grade is a B."
When OF/DH Hideki Matsui gets promoted (and it won't be long), there will be more Japanese advertising signage at the Trop. The Rays were contacted by an agency right after the April 30 signing and have deals in place. … While the Rays were clearly the favorite team in the Tampa Bay area (54 percent), according to the Quinnipiac College poll, it should be a concern how little support they had in Central Florida (8 percent), behind the Yankees, Red Sox and Braves, and even the Cubs. … CF Adam Jones getting about $85 million over six years to stay with the Orioles is a good sign for CF B.J. Upton when he hits the open market in the winter. … ESPN's Keith Law has the Rays taking Portland-area prep 3B Carson Kelly with the 25th pick in the June 4 session.
Got a minute? Luke Scott
Something that you're scared of? Having my freedom taken away.
Late-night snack? A protein bar.
Favorite TV show? I don't watch that much, but I do like the Military Channel; like when they have Tactical Tuesdays with a bunch of shows.
Band you'd like to be on stage with? Red. They're a Christian rock band, really good.
Celebrity crush? The most beautiful woman to me, for many years, is Halle Berry.