Culture / Sporting Life

Jeremy Peña Shares More Than His Heart — How the Astros Young Star Is Helping UH’s Corey Julks In a Major Way

This Together Houston Team Believes In Lifting Each Other Up

BY // 04.07.23

Jeremy Peña is more than willing to share. Corey Julks, the 27-year-old Houston Astros rookie, even credits Peña with gifting him a hit. A double in fact. It happened in the Astros’ 8-2 win over the Detroit Tigers sent them into their current road trip with at least a little momentum (even if it didn’t carry over to that first game in chilly Minnesota.) The way Julks describes it, Peña is a near magic man who understands baseball — and hitting — on a whole other level.

“After the double he hit, I was asking him, ‘Man, how’d you do that? ‘ ” Julks tells PaperCity. “And we was talking about it. And actually I got a double right there just doing some of the stuff that we were talking about. Yeah, yeah, he’s amazing.

“A great guy to be around.”

Not many teammates can get you a double. Julks, a University of Houston product who is actually two years older than the Astros’ 25-year-old starting shortstop, actually expects this kind of thing from Peña though. These two played together in the minor leagues.

“He was a year after me so we basically came up through the system together,” Julks says. “So that’s one of my good buddies on this team. He’s a great guy to be around. A great guy to learn from on this team.

“Any advice or tips he can give me, I’m definitely listening.”

What young baseball player wouldn’t listen to the guy who won the World Series MVP Award as a rookie? The more remarkable thing about this interaction is how willing Peña is to share advice and offer insights to his teammates. Peña is only just starting his second season in the Big Leagues, but he is already doing what it takes even many star players years to get comfortable with doing.

Jeremy Peña is not keeping what he sees to himself. He’s confident enough to share. Yes, this 25-year-old is a little different.

For his part Peña gives all the credit to Julks for that double, completely downplaying his own contribution with a smile.

“See, he told himself,” Peña says when I ask him about that bench interaction with Julks. “He saw something I did in my at-bat and he was like, ‘That’s what I’m not doing.’ Then he went up and did it. And hit the double. But all the credit to him.”

Houston Astros rookie Corey Julks is making an early impact. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros rookie Corey Julks is making an early impact. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Peña having even less experienced teammates to help mentor, or at least help guide along, is a positive development for the Astros. While some fixated on Peña’s 4 for 25 start to the season at the plate, the young star himself didn’t stress. Instead, he enjoyed seeing Julks get off to a hot start.

“After the double he hit, I was asking him, ‘Man, how’d you do that? ‘ And we was talking about it. And actually I got a double right there just doing some of the stuff that we were talking about.” — Corey Julks on getting Peña advice.

This is someone with the confidence of a blackjack dealer who always knows the house is on his side. Jeremy Peña never doubts that the hits will come for him.

So smashing a home run and a double in that romp over the Tigers doesn’t bring a sense of relief to Peña. Instead it just fuels a belief that never seems to waver.

“I don’t believe in slumps,” Peña says quickly when the S Word is used. “I don’t believe in slumps. So, that’s baseball. It’s part of the game. You just keep making adjustments. Just keeping showing up every single day. That’s what I try and do.”

Having this guy on your side can be beyond beneficial. Corey Julks knows this from the time he spent on minor league teams with Jeremy Peña. Julks wasn’t anyone’s can’t miss prospect. The Astros even left the former UH two-time first team all conference player unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft this offseason, meaning any other team could have grabbed him.

But Peña always believed in Julks.

“He’s a great hitter,” Peña says. “He’s a great ballplayer. And even a better teammate. So it’s good having him around.”

Corey Julks, Jeremy Peña and Power of Dreamers

For Julks, this has been something of a dream run. He’s making the most of his early chance with the Astros, hitting .316 with three runs scored over his first 20 plate appearances in the Bigs. Julks knows that nothing is guaranteed for the future, with veteran outfielder and steadying bat Michael Brantley due to return from injury at some point.

Julks must do what he can to make his mark while he can. Getting his first extra base hit (that Peña assisted double) and RBI in that losing streak busting win over the Tigers is a start. The power that saw Julks hit 31 home runs in 130 games with the Triple A Sugar Land Space Cowboys last season must still come.

“I know that’s kind of my job, do whatever I can do to help the team win,” Julks says. “So getting that first RBI is big. But more so getting an RBI for the team.”

Julks and Peña are used to winning together in the minors. Now, they’re getting a chance to do it in the Major Leagues with Peña sharing what he sees with Julks. With the two discussing hitting every chance they get.

No one needs to tell Corey Julks that Jeremy Peña doesn’t believe in slumps. He’s seen it firsthand long before his buddy became Houston’s most eligible bachelor and the new age Derek Jeter of shortstop cool.

“Peña’s going to be fine,” Julks tells PaperCity. “He’s one of the best hitters I’ve been around. I’m not worried about Peña. Peña’s going to be good. He smoked that ball.”

The Houston Astros defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-0 behind home runs by Yordan Alvarez and Jeremy Pena at Minute Maid Park
Jeremy Pena is showing poise beyond his years early in his Astros career. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Everyone knows about Jeremy Peña’s heart, but his baseball intelligence is still probably a little underrated.

Now one of baseball’s rising stars is sharing what he sees with his less experienced teammates. That’s another step for Jeremy Peña, how a future team leader starts to be formed. And Corey Julks is happy to be part of it, to get to see the game through his talented teammate’s eyes.

“I tell you what — I’m not a veteran,” Peña says. “Far from that. But we’re here to help each other. If I see something, I’m going to try and help you out. Hopefully they do the same with me.

“When they see something, come help me out. That’s what makes us a great ball club. We root for each other.”

This is the Astros way, Jeremy Peña’s way already. Sometimes he’ll even gift someone a hit.

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