Originally posted on Fox Sports Kansas City  |  Last updated 6/12/13
KANSAS CITY, Mo. Brayan Pena wasn't the most talented catcher to ever don a Royals uniform. But Pena certainly was one of the more popular catchers among the fans, as well as a favorite inside the clubhouse. "He always had a smile and so much positive energy," former teammate and still close friend Bruce Chen said. Pena was so positive, in fact, he never envisioned a baseball life beyond the Royals. He often told reporters he planned to "retire a Royal" and that he would gladly sign a 10-year contract with the Royals "anytime." Of course, neither of those scenarios worked out. The Royals outrighted Pena to the minor leagues last November, thus removing him from the 40-man roster. Pena chose free agency over a minor league deal. "It was a sad day for me," Pena said. "I loved Kansas City. I loved the fans. I loved my teammates. I really thought I'd be a Royal forever. "But I understand the game is a business. It wasn't up to me and it was out of my control." Pena still isn't sure why the Royals outrighted him, but the move did ultimately save the Royals some money at the time, or so they thought. Pena made 875,000 last year and likely would have received an increase if he had re-signed with the big league club. The Royals instead opted to claim Brett Hayes as the primary backup to Salvador Perez. Hayes was signed on a one-year, 600,000 deal. But then George Kottaras became available on waivers and the Royals grabbed him, signing him to a one-year, 1 million deal. Kottaras beat out Hayes in spring training, and the Royals essentially didn't save anything by cutting Pena loose. "Those are the types of things you don't know will happen at the time," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. "We had other moves to make back then and we needed to cut back in areas. But then George became available. "I've always been a big fan of Brayan's." And Pena knows that. The feeling is certainly mutual. "The only thing I know for sure is that I'm very grateful to Dayton Moore," Pena said. "I will always have a special place in my heart for him because he and the Braves signed me when I was 16 years old and they gave me a chance. "And then when he got to the Royals he gave me another shot. I had some great years here in Kansas City that I will never forget. I made a lot of great friends. "Not that many teams believed in me, but Dayton and the Royals did. That's why I'm still in baseball today." Pena's best season with the Royals came in 2009 when in a limited role he hit .273 with six homers and 18 RBIs. Pena's numbers were not overly impressive here, but his play did catch the eye of division rival Tigers manager Jim Leyland. Within a day after Pena filed for free agency, the Tigers called. "When my agent called me and told me the Tigers were interested," Pena said, "I just said, 'Let's sign.' This team has really embraced me. The guys made me feel welcome from the get-go. Everyone was so good to me the minute I got to Detroit. "Jim Leyland has been just great. He said he saw me play all those years in Kansas City and he really appreciated my game and what I can do to contribute. That made me feel so good." Landing a job with a World Series contender at first didn't seem real to Pena. "To be in the same room and the same team with guys like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, it's a special feeling," he said. "And to play for one of the greatest managers in the history of the game, that's incredible. He respects you as a player and as a person. He treats everyone the same very well." So far, Pena has done his part to contribute. In a backup role again, Pena has hit .289 with two homers and 11 RBIs. And more important, Pena is playing on a first-place team. But that doesn't mean Pena doesn't miss his old teammates. He still keeps in touch with several, most notably Chen. Pena will be Chen's best man at Chen's November wedding. "I miss them very much," Pena said. "I have a lot of respect for them and I hope they have a lot of respect for me. We've had a good relationship. We all kind of grew up together. It was fun watching Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas come up as kids and now they'll be the faces of the franchise. "They're going to be good. But I've got a new life now." You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Pablo Sandoval apologizes for comments about Giants

LeBron James seems to respond to Kyrie Irving's trade request

Senator jokes that President Trump should nominate Tom Brady for ambassadorship

Report: Cubs interested in Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy

Marc-Andre Fleury took Stanley Cup on a road trip, protected it well

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Cardinals say Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald won't play in Hall of Fame Game

Chiefs LB Tamba Hali goes on Twitter rant, seemingly wants out

O.J. Simpson still invited to attend Hall of Fame ceremonies

Carson Palmer threw football so hard that David Johnson needed stitches

WATCH: 49ers and Seahawks players working out together

WATCH: Vince Carter throws out first pitch for 'SagerStrong Night'

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

Best of Yardbarker: General managers take the spotlight

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

The unexpected rise of the Connecticut Sun

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

Kicking It: USMNT struggles to find consistency in Gold Cup as World Cup qualifying nears

Three Up, Three Down: The Dodgers are a complete juggernaut right now

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

Who won the Open Championship in the year you were born?

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

Box Score 7/21: Stay cool this weekend sports fans

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sports & Politics Intersect: Trump casts shadow over U.S. Women's Open

The National League Wild Card is suddenly relevant again

The 'Pay that man his money' quiz

BIG3 Week 5: Pivotal make-or-break weekend in Chicago

The 'Let's show a little love for James Jones' quiz

Making an NFL GM change in the summer has its benefits

The 'Yoan Moncada era starts now' quiz

The Orioles need to unwind past deals if they are going to rebuild

BIG3 Referee Hotline Bling: Sam Hinkie is calling the shots

The 'No one is betterer than Roger Federer' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker