Tony Pena could not have asked for a better birthday present.
The Yankees first-base coach, in his 11th season on New York's staff, celebrated his 59th birthday Saturday alongside his son, Francisco, who was called up by the Baltimore Orioles just before starting a three-game series against the Yankees.
Tony Pena was a five-time All-Star through a solid 18-year career in the majors, winning four Gold Gloves and being behind the plate for close to 2,000 games. While at the helm of the Kansas City Royals, Pena was named Manager of the Year in 2003. As a coach in New York, he won a World Series ring in 2009.
Nonetheless, Pena said that to share a major league field with his son, albeit on opposite sides of the diamond, will be one of the highlights of his career.
Frankie, as they affectionately call the youngest of the Penas, had his first game as the Orioles starting catcher on Thursday, and is expected to be the lineup Sunday against the Yankees.
After only seven at-bats in eight major league games over two seasons with the Royals, Francisco Pena got the first two hits of his career in his Orioles debut, including his first home run.
His father was coaching first base for the Yankees in Detroit on Thursday when pitcher Ivan Nova told him about Francisco's first homer.
A bit incredulous, Pena made sure after the game to confirm the feat himself by reviewing the stats in the Orioles' 12-7 victory against the Red Sox.
"After the game I saw the box score and all the calls and messages saying congratulations from the whole family," Pena said. "It was an extraordinary moment.
"We are a tight-knit family and there have been many happy moments, like when T.J. [Tony Pena Jr.] came up to the big leagues. But with Francisco being the youngest in the family, it is a very special time, and much more being around my birthday.
"It was a gift from God. What else can I ask for?"
For Francisco, it hasn't been easy having to wait until age 26 to have a place on a 25-man roster, particularly when you come from the lineage of one of the most durable catchers in MLB history. Pena was signed by the New York Mets in 2007 and has spent the better part of the past 10 seasons in the minors.
Pena's opportunity finally came when he was called up by the Orioles to replace backup catcher Caleb Joseph, who suffered a testicular injury which required surgery after getting struck by a foul in the groin on Monday.
"I have been waiting for this moment for so many years," Pena said. "I'm thrilled. I feel happy because at least my father is going to see me play."
With regard to being rivals inside the lines, Francisco quipped that it will be much harder for his father than for him.
"I think there will be a little pressure on him," he said. "I'll be fine. Every father and every mother just want to see their children to do well, to do their best. I know my father will want that from me, but at the same time, he also wants to win.
"But I really do feel very happy. What better time to come up?"
Pena said that he just feels grateful that his son is seeing his dream come true.
"He has been able to persevere," he said. "We talk daily, and I tell him: 'Keep working hard; your time will come. Keep working, you have the ability to play baseball at the major league level.'
"And thank God that day has come."