Sports Spotlight: Dustin Pedroia
Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia prepares to throw the ball in a game against the Los Angeles Angels on Oct. 3, 2007.
Name: Dustin Pedroia
MLB Team: Boston Red Sox
Height: 5’ 9”
Weight: 180 lbs
Uniform Number: 15
Notable: Pedroia is among the top candidates for American League Rookie of the Year.
At 5’ 9”, Dustin Pedroia is the smallest player on the Boston Red Sox. But when it comes to playing baseball, the rookie second baseman’s got game—big game.
“Dustin’s a guy who straps it on every day with high energy,” says Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon. “He’s a gamer.”
While Pedroia has always been a popular figure in the clubhouse, fans didn’t warm up to him immediately. After he batted just .172 in his first 21 games, many were calling for manager Terry Francona to take him out of the lineup. Now, looking back, Pedroia says he was simply trying too hard.
“You try to impress everybody,” he says. “You want the fans to love you. You want the city to love you. You want your teammates to love you. I think I put a little too much pressure on myself—trying to do too much instead of just being myself.”
Once Pedroia stopped pressing and played the game like he always had, things started to turn around for him. During May, he batted .415 and earned American League Rookie of the Month honors.
While Pedroia’s bat got hot, his defensive play was equally impressive. He committed just six errors in 139 games. One of the defensive highlights of his season came on September 1 with another rookie, Clay Buchholz, on the mound. It was the seventh inning and Buchholz was throwing a no-hitter when Baltimore’s Miguel Tejada scorched a liner up the middle. Pedroia dove for the ball, jumped up, and rifled it to first base for the out.
“I thought he had no chance at it, honestly,” said Sox center fielder Coco Crisp. “Shocked me.”
What hasn’t shocked anyone who has known Pedroia for a long time is the success he’s had in the big leagues. In college at Arizona State University, he won the 2003 National Defensive Player of the Year award. In 2004, he was one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, an honor given each year to the best college player in the country.
While Pedroia wasn’t the strongest or the biggest guy on his squad, Arizona State coach Pat Murphy says he possesses other qualities that make him a winner.
“The kid is as good as any I’ve been around with hand-eye coordination, staying focused every game,” he says. “Just his love for the game is really beautiful.”
PLAYING IN THE POSTSEASON
And it was his love for the game that kept Pedroia going this season despite a slow start. He heard all the doubters, but he refused to give up. By the season’s end, Pedroia had smacked eight homers, racked up 50 RBIs, and scored 86 runs. He finished with a .317 batting average. Now, he’s a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year.
These days, however, Pedroia’s not focused on individual awards. Instead, he’s stoked about his postseason debut, helping the Red Sox take on the Los Angeles Angels.
“Right now, I’m not thinking about [my accomplishments],” he says. “I’m just thinking about the Angels.”