Peña's legacy: the man behind the voice
There weren’t many Alice Coyote football games that Robert “Bobby” Peña didn’t see over the years.
From press boxes across South Texas, Peña called almost every Coyote football game over the past two decades. At times, his confident and unyielding voice even traveled around the world through Internet broadcasts of Alice football games and other Alice High School athletic events.
Tragically, Peña passed away Tuesday, Dec. 22 in a Corpus Christi hospital from complications due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Peña was 44.
Ironically, because of the threat of COVID-19, Peña had been limiting his time outside of his home to only doctors appointments. He even sat out the 2020 Alice High School football season. On a Facebook post in early December, Peña said he likely was exposed to the virus at a medical facility. Shortly after experiencing the first symptoms, he was hospitalized in Corpus Christi and treated in the intensive care unit.
Peña’s wife, Mari, described her husband as kind and gentle.
“My husband was the most caring and lovable person. He loved everyone and everyone loved him,” she said. “He would always go above and beyond to help people. He has so many friends that he calls family. He loved the Alice community, his Alice Coyotes and, of course, the mighty Alice Coyote Band. He was always ready to broadcast those Coyotes.”
Alice athletic director and head football coach Kyle Atwood said as a broadcaster, Peña was a consummate professional. However, Atwood said Peña was also an avid supporter of Alice High School and a genuine friend.
“Over the past few years, some of my fondest memories of the Coyote football seasons include my time visiting with Bobby Peña during the Coach's Corner sessions,” Atwood said. “We would knock out the interview, but then spend an hour or so afterwards visiting and talking about football, our families and life in general. There are many strong Coyote football supporters and fans in this community, but Bobby ranks as one of the top as he continuously offered support for our program and had a true Coyote heart. Bobby was a kind man and friend. I will greatly miss our weekly visits and his passion for Coyote football!”
Peña grew up around radio broadcasting. His father, Armando Robert Peña, Sr. was a longtime radioman in Alice and South Texas. His brother, Armando “Bob” Peña Jr. followed and had a distinguished career in radio as well. His other brother Dan Peña is a popular radio personality in Corpus Christi and South Texas.
It was only natural that Bobby followed in their steps. He began his career at the age of 15 on Radio KUKA in Alice. He later joined longtime Alice sports broadcaster Mike Smith at KOPY in calling Alice football games in 2000. He had a role in every season since then. Bobby became the general manager of the Alice radio station. He owned the station for a year before beginning the Alice Coyote Network which broadcasts Alice High School sporting events.
Longtime Alice radio personality Pete Vasquez worked with Bobby, his father and his brothers over the years.
“I worked alongside his amazingly talented dad and brothers,” Vasquez said. “I can say I learned from the very best in broadcasting… the in’s and out’s, the do’s and don’ts of radio. Bobby acquired those traits and displayed them on a daily basis. He was just a thrilling human to be around. In the sports booth, he would set the bar high and captures the theater of the mind of the radio listener.”
Vasquez said Bobby’s death is a terrible loss for the Alice community.
“I’m having a hard time dealing with his way-to-soon departure,” he said. “He’s the perfect example of battling adversity to the very end with heart… a lot of Coyote heart.”
Bobby was also a strong supporter of the Alice High School band program. A proud Coyote band booster, his son Josh is a member of the AHS band program.
“If you knew him, you would loved him,” Josh said of his father. “ I mean, what's not to love? He could put a smile on your face with his words alone. His character was something that I personally believe is hard to match. I hope to accomplish that some day because he is the person I admire the most. He is definitely my hero. He will be missed by so many, but the memories will never be forgotten.”
Outside of broadcasting, Bobby owned Big Stack Card House in Alice. He also was a candidate for the Alice Independent School District school board two years ago and was considering a run at the Alice City Council in 2021.