Baseball player has Shiretown roots

13 years ago

Mother tells summertime memories and hopes for son’s career
By Gloria Austin
Staff Writer

    Jerome Pena’s name may not be familiar in Houlton, but his mother and grandfather have roots in the Shiretown.
    Pena’s grandfather, John Dombek grew up in Houlton, and his mother Dinah was born in the Shiretown before the family relocated to Illinois.
    “Every summer, my parents would drive from Illinois to Maine and we would spend three weeks at the camp [on Grand Lake],” Dinah said. “I have fond memories of our vacations. My Dad would pack the Volkswagen bug, putting the luggage on top, and the six of us kids would squeeze in for the long trip. We had a tradition. As we got closer to the camp, someone would yell, “last one in is a rotten egg!” We’d take off our socks and shoes.  As soon as my Dad put the car into park. The doors flew open and it was a race to run down the path to the dock and jump in Grand Lake. Clothes and all! That’s how our vacation started.”
    The Dombeks loved getting up in the morning and hearing the loons on the lake.
    “My sisters and brother slept upstairs and if you looked out the windows you could see the loons swim by,” Dinah added. “We spent most of our days in swimsuits only coming home to get food then back down the shoreline to play.”
    Dinah married Frank Pena and the couple have four children — Frankie, 23; Jerome, 21; Anthony, 19; and Mackenzie, 17.
    In 2009, Dinah’s second son, Jerome was selected in the 40th round of the Major League Baseball’s Amateur Draft for the New York Mets. However, Jerome decided to stay in college and accepted a scholarship to Texas Christian University.
    As second baseman, Baseball America tabbed him as the 24th top prospect in Nevada, and he was also selected to the All-Tournament team at the JUCO World Series as a sophomore. Pena earned the First Team All-Region, as well as conference accolades as a freshman. He hit .293 with 13 doubles, seven home runs and 33 RBIs.
    Last year, Pena, who is from Cave Creek, Ariz., helped the TCU Horned Frogs sweep the Mountain West Conference Tourney, Fort Worth Regional and best of three Super Regional in Austin, Texas.
    Pena’s biggest accomplishment was becoming only the fourth player in College World Series history (60 years) to hit home runs from both sides of the plate at Rosenblatt Stadium in June.
    “It’s an amazing feat to watch your son stand on either side of the plate and hit one out of the park,” said his mother. “He’s got a lot of talent and heart. No matter what he ends up doing in life he will be great at it.”
    Some people around East Grand Lake remember the young Pena, as he visited the area when he was 13 years old.
    “It left a big impression on him,” said his mother. “We stayed at our camp, and he met his cousins and my grandma (Gummy). My siblings and their children were at the camp, too, so we had a full house.”
    Pena learned how to water ski and knee board, along with canoeing and sailing.  
    “He rode a jet ski and even swam across the lake to Canada,” said his mother. “He ate his first lobster and loved it! At night, the kids sat around a bonfire and told stories. He told me that this vacation with his family was priceless!”
    Dinah could relate, as she thoroughly enjoyed her time at Grand Lake.
    “Our Grandma (Gummy) would have a home-made meal prepared, and our Grandpa (Biggy) would have the boat in the water, with all the toys and life jackets ready,” she said upon their arrival at camp. “They made sure we had the best vacation ever! My mom and sisters would frequent Houlton to do laundry, get groceries, and visit Gummy and Biggy. I loved their house! It always smelled of fresh baked molasses cookies. Biggy would always make some for us and put them in a tin box in the pantry. That’s where we went to first. Second place we went to was the basement. We walked down the wooden stairs, it had a musty smell. My Biggy was a carpenter and he made all kind of wooden toys. Out back in the corner of the yard were raspberry bushes. Mmmmm! We would  eat them as fast as we picked them.”
    Unfortunately, Pena wasn’t drafted last June due to a back injury, but he will be a senior this year at Texas Christian where he majors in speech pathology.
    “His plan and his dream is to get drafted in June of 2011,” said his mother. “His first love and passion has always been baseball. He has something to fall back on if that doesn’t happen, and that is helping young children, who have speech problems, develop and learn how to talk correctly.”
    The camp days are very few for Dinah, but the memories are cherished.
    “It was so relaxing and peaceful,” she said. “We were  fortunate to have a summer get-away. My siblings still go visit every summer. I miss the camp. It will always hold a very special place in my heart.”