“He walks into the room acting like he’s six foot four and 225 pounds and looks like Brad Pitt, but for some reason you find it endearing instead of irritating.” Those words were spoken by Steve Hyder, the radio play-by-play announcer of the Pawtucket Red Sox and he was speaking of a farm hand named Dustin Pedroia. At 5’7” and 140 pounds, the scrappy young infielder made a positive impression on everyone who came in contact with him on his climb to the big leagues. Now, after twelve seasons as a big league ballplayer, those impressions are as strong and enduring as they ever were.
He was born in Woodland, California on August 17, 1983 and attended Woodland Senior High School, where he played baseball and football. He was All-State in his junior and senior years hitting .459 and .445 respectively. After graduation, he played for the Carson Capitols in Carson City, Nevada, a league that included some of the best college players around.
As a youngster, his parents, Guy and Debbie were always there to encourage him and would travel to Carson City to see him play. The young man was grateful and recalled how much it meant to have their unwavering support. Dustin, a little guy as athletes go, always possessed unbounded confidence. He earned a scholarship to Arizona State University and enrolled in the fall of 2001. In three years of baseball at ASU, he hit a combined .384.
Overcoming adversity is not uncommon when trying to become successful, but injury only makes the climb that much more difficult. He took a bad hop ground ball in the face causing a concussion and broken bones under the eye, but the gutsy little guy overcame that obstacle. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 2004 Major League Draft and received a signing bonus of $575,000.
Pedroia’s professional career began at Augusta, Georgia in the lowly Class A Sally League, but he swiftly progressed. Five days after his 23rd birthday, Pedroia was in the big leagues and in his first game, collected his first hit. He hit his first major league home run on September 9 against Kansas City. He hit only .191 in 89 at-bats, but it was all ahead of him. He went through a weak spring the next year and was at just .182 in May, but then he started to roll.
He hit .317 for the season with 201 hits and 15 home runs. At one point he banged out eleven consecutive hits. Dustin was voted the American League Rookie of the Year for 2007. The Red Sox won the American League East and faced Cleveland in the ALCS. In game seven, Dustin homered and doubled driving in five runs, securing the pennant for the Sox. Pedroia hit a homer in his first World Series at bat making him the second player and the first rookie to lead off the series with a home run. Boston notched their second World Championship in four years and the first for Dustin Pedroia.
He hit .326 the next season and was selected to his first All-Star game. He added the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger Awards in his second major league season. The 2008 season also saw Pedroia as recipient of the American League Most Valuable Player Award. But once more, he was bitten by the injury bug. He suffered a broken bone in his foot and played in just 75 games. Bouncing back with a .307 season in ’11, Dustin signed an extension to his contract on July 23, 2013. It called for eight more years and $110 million.
Pedroia got his second ring when Boston won another World Series. Dustin and his wife Kelli now have three boys – Dylan arrived in 2009, Cole in 2012 and Brooks in 2014. After an injury in late 2017 Dustin began the 2018 season on the disabled list. It turned out to be season long. But as his Red Sox won the World Series, Pedroia was there from day one; on the bench, in the locker room, with encouragement and support. Even with that, the game, for Dustin Pedroia remains a lark. “You don’t have a care in the world once you step onto that field,” he said. “The only thing you’re trying to do is play baseball. It’s fun!”