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Baseball: Pena back in action after ACL injury during football

April 5, 2019

Chase Pena spent Tuesday morning at the doctor’s office, however, it wasn’t a routine visit.

It was an appointment that Pena was looking forward to since Oct. 31, when a knee injury derailed his football season.

He only needed to hear two words from his doctor to make sure he was in the white and purple Humble colors on April 2.

“He said I’m cleared,” said Pena with a smile. “After an hour workout to do the test I was extremely tired. And then I went in there and the doctor said that my times were good. He cleared me to play baseball.”

A mental exam

Pena was put through the toughest challenge of his life mentally during the football season.

The senior quarterback was looking into the eyes of a Dobie defense lineman who was trying to tackle the right-handed gunslinger. Pena moved to avoid the tackle when he heard a pop in his right knee.

The Wildcats starting quarterback had torn his ACL completely, which was the first injury he has ever had in his life.

“I heard it pop,” Pena said. “It didn’t really hurt that bad. It just got swollen and stiff.”

Pena had ACL surgery on Halloween. He was nervous about being cut open for surgery for the first time in his life.

“It was a little nerve-racking,” said Pena about the surgery process. “I was really nervous because I was scared of the whole fact of someone cutting my knee and putting a new tendon in there.”

Aggressive recovery process

His goal was always to get back for baseball season and he knew aggressive physical therapy was the only way.

“Right after the surgery I went three straight days to physical therapy,” Pena said. “I wanted to come back for baseball, and I knew I could do it. After that I went twice a week and just started getting comfortable with my knee.”

Pena started off with single leg raises and then moved to bike exercises. He would eventually start optical running and jumping while doing sports metrics.

His right leg got stronger and his doctor gave Pena a timetable of six months to get back on the field if he passed physical tests.

Back on the diamond

Pena found himself starting on the mound for the Wildcats against Summer Creek after 154 days since his surgery.

He was happy to be with his teammates as they opened the new David Sitton Field.

“It felt good,” Pena said. “I have been working really hard to get back for baseball. The results weren’t there so at least I’m back here. This is just amazing, and I had been itching to play baseball because it’s such a great sport.”

Pena pitched two innings, throwing 45 pitches and picking up one strikeout. He even picked up the bat and stepped into the batters box too along with playing the hot corner at third base for the Wildcats.

The Wildcats came up short against Summer Creek, but the night belonged to Pena for meeting his deadline to get back on the diamond.

Wildcats catcher Alex Mier-Salazar thought Pena performed well coming back from a knee injury.

“He did really good coming back from the injury, and he did better than I expected,” Mier-Salazar said. “I give him props for that. Knowing Chase even before … he has always had a good attitude, kept his mind right and worked hard. He showed me videos of him doing physical therapy, and he got through it to be out here with us. I know things got tough for him, but he kept his head up and did the best he could.”

Humble head coach Robby Fontenot was glad to see his senior leader on the field competing with the Wildcats for the first time this season.

“He has helped us in a big way,” Fontenot said. “Chase wasn’t supposed to be back this year quite honestly. He fought, he really wanted to be with his guys and finish out his senior year. I can’t believe he’s here but were glad he’s here. It’s a testament to his hard work and dedication. It didn’t go well for him tonight, but I think him being out there it was a step in the right direction for him.”

Pena will keep working to make sure his knee gets stronger as he finishes his senior year with the Wildcats.

Football future

Pena still holds offers from East Texas Baptist University, Mississippi College and Rhodes College to play football.

“This definitely was the hardest challenge of my life,” Pena said. The next step is getting cleared for football. These schools stuck with me and this injury and they know what to expect. “I’m going to start working with (quarterback coach) JP Tillman in football and get back into football shape. I’m looking forward to the future.”

marcus.gutierrez@chron.com