Rays Star Peña Hits Game-Winning RBI Against Yankees

Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Rays brought Carlos Peña back to the team with a lucrative one-year contract… Well, it looks like it was money well spent!

In the team’s season-opening game against the New York Yankees, the 33-year-old Dominican baseball star not only hit a grand slam against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, but he hit a game-winning RBI against closer Mariano Rivera.

Carlos Pena

“Your heart starts racing in that moment and you try to control yourself as much as possible,” Peña said. “I tried to slow myself down and breathe and take it one pitch at a time, as easy as you can possibly make it. Instead of building the situation up you try to bring it down.”

Peña’s spectacular hitting lifted the Rays to a thrilling 7-6 victory over the Yankees on Friday. In all, he finished 3 for 5 with five RBIs in his return to the Rays after a year with the Chicago Cubs. All that after a spring in which he hit .107 and struggled so much that manager Joe Maddon initially penciled him into the No. 7 spot in the batting order for the opener before shifting the slugger into the sixth spot.

Peña, who was 0 for 11 lifetime against Rivera, won it by driving a 1-2 pitch off the base of the wall in left-center field for his fifth RBI of the game.

“He’s the greatest closer in the history of the game and we all know that,” Pena said of Rivera. “He has that illusion in his ball. You swing where the ball is at and it’s not there anymore. He has perplexed hitters throughout his career. He’s the best closer in baseball, and that’s for a reason.”

Earlier in the game, Peña brought the sellout crowd of 34,078 to its feet in the bottom of the first inning when he sent a 3-2 pitch into the right-field stands for his eighth career grand slam.

Messi Breaks Career Goals Record for Barcelona

Lionel Messi continues making strides in his quest to become the greatest soccer player of all time…

The 24-year-old Argentinean soccer star—who recently won the FIFA’s Ballon d’Or for the third consecutive yearbroke Cesár Rodríguez‘s career goals record for Barcelona, scoring his eighth hat trick of the season in Tuesday night’s 5-3 Spanish league win over Granada to increase his total to 234.

Lionel Messi

Messi, who made his Barcelona debut in 2004, tied Rodríguez’s record on a left-footed shot in the 17th minute for his 232nd goal, then chipped the goalkeeper for a 3-2 lead in the 67th. He added a goal from a tight angle in the 86th, increasing his season total to a career-best 54.

Late Monday, Barcelona announced Rodríguez’s total from 1942-55 was three fewer than the team had previously reported. A review by Barcelona’s Center of Documentation and Studies and the La Vanguardia newspaper determined he did not score goals attributed to him during the 1947-48, 1948-49, 1949-50 and 1952-53 seasons and also credited him with an additional goal in 1945-46.

Messi has scored in seven straight games, totaling 17 goals. He leads La Liga with 34 goals, two ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

The hat trick was Messi’s 18th for Barcelona. His six goals in La Liga tie the season record set by Ronaldo last year.

Only a few weeks ago Messi scored five goals in one game.

Ferrer Wins Mexican Open Title…

David Ferrer has claimed his third tournament title of the year in 2012…

The 29-year-old professional Spanish tennis player—currently ranked No. 5 in the world on the ATP rankings list—easily defended his title at the Mexican Open on Saturday, beating fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

David Ferrer

Ferrer broke Verdasco twice in each set to take the match in just over an hour.

This marks Ferrer’s second title in as many weeks, following his victory last Sunday at the Copa Claro event in Buenos Aires. Ferrer won his first tournament of 2012 in Auckland, New Zealand at the Heineken Open.

With his performance at the Mexican Open, Ferrer has improved his 2012 record to 18-1—with his only loss coming to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open.

Mendoza Encouraging Latinas to Get in the Game…

Dare to be different! That’s the message Olympic gold medalist Jessica Mendoza is sharing with young Latinas.

The 31-year-old Mexican American softball star—who helped lead the U.S. women’s national softball team to a gold medal at the Athens 2004 games—says young Latinas can differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack by going to college and dedicating their energies to sports.

Jessica Mendoza

“In the Latino community there are many cultural barriers and pre-established roles so that girls remain inside the home and do not devote time to sports,” Mendoza told Efe. “Playing sports, in particular, causes Latinas to have more confidence in themselves, they are a road to education.”

Born in Camarillo, California, the former 4-time First Team All-American softball player, is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants. She graduated from Stanford University, where she was the school’s Athlete of the Year in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Along with a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Mendoza has helped lead the U.S. women’s softball team two world cups (2006-2007), two world championships (2002 and 2006), two gold medals in the Pan American Games in 2003 and 2007 and a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, among others.

Jessica Mendoza

“A problem in the Hispanic community is that many girls and boys are overweight,” said Mendoza, who is a reporter and analyst for ESPN. “So we have to provide the incentive in Latino homes … to get out of the house to play sports.”

Mendoza said that her love of sports started during her childhood because her father coached baseball, but as a Latina she grew up seeing that there were few Latina role models in sports.

“I started playing baseball at 4, but I only played with males and at 8 I began playing softball with other girls, the model to follow was my dad, who is a bilingual coach and on the field would direct one person in English and, at the same time, he’d give tips to another in Spanish,” she recounted.

“My father played a lot in school and because of his talents in sports he was able to study in good schools and do well in all academic areas to be successful in life,” Mendoza said.

Jessica Mendoza

Married to a civil engineer and the mother of a 3-year-old boy, Mendoza also devotes herself to giving motivational talks to young people in U.S. schools and abroad.

“I like to focus myself on seeing how I can help in the Latino community with my words,” she said.

Mendoza said that she knows very well that in the Latino community there is a cycle in which girls begin to have children at an early age and don’t continue their studies at college.

“We new generations of Latinas have to be different and to dare to be the first in the family to think differently about enrolling to study at community colleges or universities,” she said.

Giants Star Cruz Earns His First Super Bowl Ring…

New York Giants’ star Victor Cruz has plenty of reason to salsa… He’s now the proud owner of a Super Bowl championship ring in only his second season in the National Football League.

Victor Cruz

The 25-year-old half-Puerto Rican wide receiver scored the first touchdown of the night during Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday to help lead the Giants to a 21-17 victory over the New England Patriots in a tightly-contested match.

New England almost forced a turnover and prevented a score during the Giants’ 10-play, 78-yard drive, but a Cruz fumble on third down in the red zone was undone by a 12 men on the field penalty, which gave the Giants a first and goal. They managed to convert with the scoring pass from Eli Manning, who was named this year’s Super Bowl MVP, to Cruz.

Following his touchdown—at the 3:24 mark in the first quarterthe All-Pro selection even celebrated by doing what he’s done all season long… dance salsa in the end zone… in front of more than 100 million people worldwide.

The New Jersey-born Cruz attended the University of Massachusetts and scored 11 touchdowns in his career and had just under 2,000 receiving yards.

Click here to watch an interview with Cruz reflecting on his improbable journey.

But Cruz wasn’t the only Latino to score a touchdown during the Super Bowl game…

Aaron Hernandez

In the third quarter, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez caught a 12-yard pass from Tom Brady to put the Patriots up 17-9.

The 22-year-old Connecticut-born Hernandez—also a second year NFL player—attended the University of Florida where he, along with Tim Tebow, led the Gators to a 2009 BCS Championship. While at Florida, he was nicknamed “Chico” by his college teammates because he was the only Puerto Rican on the team, something he came to embrace.

Concepción Signs Multi-Million Dollar Contract with Chicago Cubs

He’s only 19-years-old… But Gerardo Concepción is one step closer to a career in the major leagues…

The Cuban left-handed pitcher has signed a multi-year contract with the Chicago Cubs worth a reported $7 million, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Gerardo Concepcion

Concepción, last season’s Cuban National Series Rookie of the Year, isn’t expected to jump into the Cubs’ rotation right away though.

“I would not throw him into the major leagues yet,” Concepción’s agent Jaime Torres told The Tribune. “While I think he can make it really fast, he is only 19. But this kid has good stuff, a great makeup and he’s extremely intelligent.”

The baseball phenom defected from Cuba last year during the World Port Tournament in the Netherlands and recently established residency in Mexico—with Major League Baseball declaring him a free-agent last month.

He has been working at a baseball academy in the Dominican Republic to prepare for his big league signing.

In Cuba, Concepción finished the 2010-11 season with a 10-3 win-loss record and a 3.36 earned run average (ERA).

His scouting report lists Concepción at 6’ 2” with a solid command of the fastball, which registers in the low 90-mile per hour range. His arsenal also includes a mean curveball and a change-up.

MTV Tr3s Picks Up Ricardo Laguna Docuseries

He’s been proclaimed the South American “”… And, now you’ll have the chance to get the dirt on Ricardo Laguna.

Tres: MTV, Musica y Mas has picked up The Ricardo Laguna Project, which centers on the life of the 29-year-old Mexican-American professional BMX rider and television personality.

Ricardo Laguna

Actor Wilmer Valderrama, who discovered Laguna, will executive produce the 10-episode docuseries.

“When I met Ricardo, I immediately discovered a disarming, charming and inspiring young man with a vision larger than even his whole family expected,” says Valderrama. “I related to him on so many levels. Ricardo and his family remind me and all of us of the reason why we move away from our countries and come to America to embark in the search of the American dream.”

Ricardo Laguna

The Ricardo Laguna Project will offer a glimpse inside the life of Laguna as he attempts to break three world records and launch his own family business while balancing his family and Las Vegas social life.

The new series will premiere later this year on Tres.

Peña Returning to Tampa Bay Rays…

It appears Carlos Peña will be making his triumphant return to Tampa Bay next season…

The 33-year-old Dominican baseball star has reportedly agreed to terms on a one-year contract with a Tampa Bay Rays valued at $7.25 million, according to CBS Sports.

Carlos Pena

“Soooo excited …. !!!!!” Pena said in a text message sent to the Tampa Bay Times.

The All-Star first baseman—who claimed the American League Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2007—played arguably some of his best baseball during his previous four-year stint with Tampa.

In 2007 he hit .282/.411/.627 with 46 home runs and 121 RBI. In 2009 he hit .227/.356/.537 while leading the American League in home runs with 39 and earning his first All-Star appearance.

Peña left Tampa Bay after the 2010 season and signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs. He has also played for the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics.

Pena hit .225/.357/.463 with 28 home runs and 80 RBI last season in his first year with the Cubs.

Over the course of his 11-year career he has averaged 34 home runs and 96 RBI per 162 games.

The deal, which has not been officially announced, is pending a physical.

Falla Scores Big Upset at Australian Open

Alejandro Falla has scored the first big upset of the tournament in the men’s draw at the Australian Open

The 28-year-old Colombian tennis player defeated American Mardy Fish, ranked No. 8 in the world, in straight sets in their second round matchup.

Alejandro Falla

Falla, ranked 71st in the world, ousted Fish by a score of 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).

The lefty, who turned pro in 2000, played aggressively from the start, remaining rock-solid throughout the match with his backhand and pressuring the forehand of the American, who committed several unforced errors on key points, especially during the third-set tiebreaker.

“He’s a good player,” Fish, who committed 58 unforced errors, said after the match. “He was up two sets to love against Roger (Federer) at (the 2010) Wimbledon (before losing in five sets). The guy can play. I wasn’t shocked that I was in that position (of down two sets), but … you’ve got to battle. You’ve got to fight. I tried but it didn’t work out.”

Falla’s next round match will be against German player Philipp Kohlschreiber, who currently ranks at No. 41.

Messi Named World’s Best Player for Third Straight Year…

It’s official… Lionel Messi is the king of the soccer field.

The 24-year-old Argentinean soccer star, who plays for Futbol Club Barcelona has received the FIFA’s Ballon d’Or, making him the 2011 best player in the world. Messi beat out his Barça teammate Xavi Hernandez and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the honor.

Lionel-Messi

Widely regarded as the world’s best forward, Messi is the first player to win the honor three years in a row. The only other three-time winners are Ronaldo (1996-97, 2002) and Zinedine Zidane (1998, 2000, 2003). The FIFA award was renamed last year when it merged with France Football’s Golden Ball.

“It’s a huge honor,” Messi said after accepting the trophy from the retired Brazilian great, Ronaldo.

Last year, Messi scored 55 goals for Barcelona, which won its third Champions League title in six seasons, and he scored four goals for Argentina‘s national team.

Messi received 48 percent of the points in votes cast by national team coaches and captains plus selected reporters. Cristiano Ronaldo finished second with 22 percent and Xavi had 9 percent to finish third.

“This one is very special because I want to share this with my friend and teammate Xavi. He deserves it,” Messi said.

Meanwhile, Xavi described his teammate as “one of the best footballers in the history of the sport.”

“He’s still young. I think he’s probably going to break all the records that exist in the sport,” Xavi said.