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04/08/08 7:08 PM ET

Pena gets award prior to Rays' opener

Comeback Player of 2007 describes honor as 'really special'

ST. PETERSBURG -- Carlos Pena received the prestigious Players Choice Award as the 2007 American League Comeback Player prior to Tuesday's home opener against the Mariners.

"This one has very special significance," the Rays' first baseman said. "It's chosen by your peers, the players. It's so special to have your peers' respect. That's what makes it so special. It's the people you play against. When your opponent recognizes something and appreciates it that makes it really special."

Pena won the award via a secret ballot of all American League players based on his record-breaking season at the plate. Pena's teammate, James Shields, served as the representative for his American League peers by presenting Pena with the award.

"I don't take any of these [awards] for granted," Pena said. "It's special for me. Anything that pretty much appreciates your efforts, and gives it value, how could you just take it for granted? I could never do that."

Pena set a number of Rays single-season records in 2007, with 46 home runs, 121 RBIs, 103 walks, a .411 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage. He also became the first player in Major League history to hit 40 home runs the season after being released from a team.

In Pena's honor, the Major League Baseball Players Trust will award a $20,000 grant to the Dominican Republic-based Fundacion Lumen 2000, to help the approximately 3,000 families they serve in the Province of San Francisco de Macoris. The funds will be used in the areas of health, education, food and shelter. Winners of the 2007 Players Choice Award winners in all categories will designate charities to receive grants totaling $260,000 from the Players Trust.

Since 1992, the Players Trust has recognized the outstanding on-field and off-field performances of Players Choice Awards winners by contributing over $3 million to charities around the world.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.