Pedroia is from Woodland, California, a quaint, small town about 20 miles northwest of Sacramento. It isn't really tiny, with a population of over 50,000. But downtown is the kind of place that could slide smoothly onto Route 66 somewhere in the nation's middle, the perfect setting for a staging of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town."
The main street is called Main Street and features a corner drugstore called Corner Drug. A tack shop stands as a reminder that this is still horse country, Costco or not. The State Theater advertises "Free Refill on Large Popcorn." The walls of the Spanish colonial-style Hotel Woodland seem as though they would belch if someone tried to affix a Marriott or Sheraton nameplate.
A few blocks away sits a ball field. "Clark Field," the sign says, "home of Babe Ruth League, Woodland High School, American Legion."
Dustin was born and raised in Woodland, as were his parents, Guy and Debbie, and brother Brett. The family's roots in Yolo County stretch more than a century. It is a small town where everybody may not know everybody but where one of Dustin's high school baseball coaches, Matt Bryson, is married to Dustin's cousin, Niki, and Guy Pedroia rents a house to the father of Tony Torcato, the former Giants farmhand from Woodland. (Henry Schulman-SF Chronicle-11/23/08)
Dustin grew up a San Francisco Giants fan.
In fact, he says the best Christamas gift he ever got as a youth: "My parents got me a little San Francisco Giants bat, because I was Giants fan when I was little. I was like 3 or 4, and I think I still have it at home. That's one that really stuck out. I remember I was so excited. My brother would wrap up a little foil ball and we would try to hit it around the house, and I was always breaking things around the house with my stupid bat. It's things like that that kind of bring your family together. Me and my brother were always close, always playing games with each other. That kind of made it special."
Pedroia has always hit wherever he has played.
In high school, he hit .448, .459, and .445.
Then, .347, .404, and .393 in his three standout years at Arizona State.
Then, .357, .293, and .305 in his three seasons in the minors.
Pedroia dreamed of playing for Arizona State University since attending a camp run by Fernando Vina, another former Sun Devils shortstop with Sacramento roots.
But upon his arrival in the fall of 2001, Pedroia was a mess. He made countless errors. He called home daily. He seriously considered going home to play for Sacramento City College. Former teammate Dennis Wyrick once called it "suicide watch," to which Pedroia said, "No joke." (BA-02/04)
In 2004, Pedroia became the fourth player in Arizona State history to earn three consecutive All-Pac 10 First Team awards. Pedroia finished second in Pac-10 2004 Player of the Year voting after winning the award in 2003.
That year, he hit .393 (second in Pac-10) in 59 starts, smashing 24 doubles, one triple and nine homers while driving in 48 runs and stealing eight bases in 13 attempts. His on-base percentage was .502. He is a career .383 hitter for Arizona State, ranking seventh in school history. Obviously durable, Pedroia started all 185 games he played at ASU, so he is an iron man.
At Arizona State, Pedroia, the son of a tire salesman, gave up his scholarship his last two years so Murphy could recruit a much-needed pitcher.
- After his second season with Boston, he signed so quickly and so cheaply for such a long-term deal (six years, $40.5 million, with a team option for a seventh year) that even Epstein admitted, "We almost felt guilty adding an option year. He said, 'I love it here. I want to be here.' He encouraged [us to make] it as long as possible."
- Dustin was one of five finalists for the Golden Spikes Award, which was announced on June 13, 2004.
- Dustin is an old-school player. He just flat-out knows how to play the game. And he loves playing it in a fiery manner, with a whole lot of energy. He is a very good baseball player, not just a scrappy one. He reminds people of David Eckstein.
- Pedroia shows up real early to the clubhouse, then is the last guy to leave. He is a throwback who managers love to have on their team.
He realizes he is at a disadvantage when being watched by scouts, being only 5-foot-8. But Dustin also says if you do things right, you can succeed. He truly visualizes himself as a Major League baseball player.
He has a superb work ethic and excellent sense of the game. He is hard-nosed, competitive and a true leader on a team. He is a blood-and-guts player who thrives on pressure and makes everyone around him better. His passion for the game is taking him a long way. And he plays the game the right way.
- Before 2005 spring training, Baseball America rated Pedroia as #6 prospect in the Red Sox organization. And before 2006 spring camp opened, the magazine had moved Dustin up to 5th-best in the Boston farm system. And in the winter before 2007 spring training, B.A. had Pedroia back as 6th-best in the Red Sox farm minor league organization.
- In 2005, Pedroia was named the Red Sox Minor League Player of the Year.
- In January 2006, Dustin got engaged to Kelli, a Chicago native. That November they were married.
- In 2006, Pedroia hit .305 (fifth in the IL) with 30 doubles and nearly twice as many walks (48) as strikeouts (27).
- Dustin showed up at 2007 spring training in excellent shape. He always has worked hard and trained well, but along with that he improved his diet, and it showed.
Pat Murphy, Pedroia's former baseball coach at Arizona State, had a rather amusing slant on Dustin's surge to success in 2007:
"Let's break it down—he's 5-foot-6, he can't run, he's not strong, his bat speed and his hands are tremendous because his arms are only about 11 inches long and so close to his body that he's not getting anything to hit five or six inches to the right or left of him, and he doesn't have a lick of athletic ability. Yet, he's a rookie of the year candidate," Murphy said.
In 2007, Pedroia was named the American League Rookie of the Year, in a landslide vote, easily topping Tampa Bay OF Delmon Young.
Dustin had a horrible start to his rookie year, and the Fenway faithful were giving him hell for it. He couldn't make the short walk from Fenway Park to his apartment without some loudmouth busting him, and came home one night to find his wife, Kelli, crying on the phone to her mother, because of the things they were saying about her new husband on TV.
"I thought to myself, 'This has got to change,' " Pedroia said. " 'I've got to do something.'"
Then he went to a baseball card show in Medford, Mass. he thinks, but he's not certain. It was a cab ride, and sure enough, the cabbie had his radio tuned to the sports talk station, and everybody, it seemed, hosts and callers, were making sport of Pedroia.
"Those guys were crushing me," he said. "I'm thinking, 'This is tough.'
"I get to the signing, and this guy comes up to me with a baseball and says, 'Hey, I want you to sign Dustin Pedroia ROY '07.'"
The acronym is shorthand for "Rookie of the Year." Pedroia was hitting about a buck eighty at the time.
"I said, 'Dude, what are you, drunk? Get out of here, man,'" Pedroia said. "The guy says, 'No, I'm serious.'
"I said, 'Hey, buddy, if I sign this and win Rookie of the Year, I want that ball.' He goes, 'No problem.'"
Fast forward to August, and another card show.
"The same guy shows up," Pedroia said. "He didn't want anything signed. He just showed me the ball. A really good guy. He had his little son with him, he had my jersey on, I'm thinking, 'This is pretty cool, this is what it's all about.'
"Kelli was with me. I go, 'Honey, there's the guy. This guy's great.' I was going nuts. In April, when everybody was crushing me, there were people who still believed in me, and that's what made it special," Pedroia said. "He just said he loved the way I played, the way I take everything personal. He said he wasn't the most talented guy when he played—I got the whole high school story—but he said he really appreciates the way I play." (Gordon Edes-2/10/08)
Dustin is not always recognized for being a Major Leaguer. In fact, during the 2007 World Series, when the Red Sox were in Denver, the day before Game 3 of the World Series, and Pedroia is walking into the players' entrance at Coors Field for that day's workout.
"I didn't see the security guy," Pedroia said. "It was like he was hiding behind a bush. He started yelling, 'Hey, hey, hey.'
"I said, 'What?'
"He said, 'Get out of here.'
"I said, 'Dude, I play for the Red Sox.' He said, 'Let me see your ID.' I whip out my card. He goes, 'Anybody can make these.'
"I go, 'Hey, dude, you got to calm down. I'm the guy leading off the World Series, hitting bombs. Chill out.' Everybody started laughing. I was so mad about it."
Manager Terry Francona, who made Pedroia his regular cribbage partner all summer, tells a slightly different version of this story. He said that when Pedroia was asked to identify himself, he said, "Ask [expletive] Francis who I am. I'm the guy who hit a bomb off him."
Pedroia concedes that yes, he did indeed refer to the home run he hit off Jeff Francis to lead off Game 1 of the World Series. "But I can't say that," he said. "You think I want people throwing at my head?" (Gordon Edes-Boston Globe-2/10/08)
During the offseason before 2008 spring training, Dustin and his wife Kelli, joined Arizona State baseball coach Tim Murphy and Willie Bloomquist of the Mariners, who was Pedroia's teammate at ASU, and went to Hawaii for five days. They went tuna and marlin fishing and had a blast.
Pedroia dances way to infamy: The Red Sox official website says that Pedroia did something unusual at one of Mike Lowell's charity events. During part of the dance competition, Pedroia was shirtless.
"Pedroia is a moron, and you can write that," quipped Francona. "He was dancing, he looked like a puppet on a string. It's funny, because he's such a little gamer. But he's looking over knowing that we're just crushing him. He's drinking Red Bull, he's exhausted, he's trying to do these things with this girl that he's not strong enough to do. It was hilarious."
You've no doubt heard the expression "Manny being Manny." Well, this is Pedie being Pedie. He's a little loudmouth punk. And in a clubhouse full of superstars, he's also the guy who energizes the defending champs—with a never-ending stream of smack.
From a distance, you might take the second baseman seriously, think he's bragging on himself and tearing others down. That would be a mistake. "C'mon, I'm like 5'2" 115," Pedroia says. "And this game's tough. I try to bring a loose attitude and make sure everyone's having fun. Hang around our team long enough, and you'll see that most of the jokes are on me."
Generously listed at 5'9", 180 pounds (he's closer to 5'8", 170), Pedroia looks a little impish wearing his cap pulled low and sporting a scruffy, on-again, off-again beard that never seems like more than an idea. Sitting on the dugout bench, he strikes a more subdued tone for the moment. "I know everyone at the major league level is really good," he says. "And I have respect for them. I just don't want it in my head, or anyone else's, that we can't get a hit off a guy, so I'm not one to be praising a pitcher. I'd rather everyone believe we'll hit the guy."
It's a philosophy he developed at Arizona State. During Pedroia's sophomore year, coach Pat Murphy asked him about a pitcher's slider, and the kid responded, "It's so nasty!" Pedroia was already one of the Sun Devils' best hitters, so Murphy told him, "Never let your teammates hear you say anything like that."
From that point on, the better a pitcher threw the ball, the more Pedroia said he sucked. Once, after ripping a leadoff single off Wichita State's Mike Pelfrey (now with the Mets), Pedroia shouted at the pitcher as he rounded first, "Ninety-eight coming in, 102 going out!"
Adds hitting coach Dave Magadan: "His confidence radiates through our clubhouse. He never really gets down on himself, and he makes everyone feel so at ease. That's rare for a young player."
The insults about the other team's ace? That's just his way of saying, Let's not be afraid of this guy. The proclamations that he's going to hit four ropes? Translation: If I can do it, then it should be easy for studs like you. (Murphy says Pedroia once wore a sleeveless shirt in college to show off his lack of biceps.) Challenging teammates to make-believe fistfights? Let's roll, boys. Whatever it takes. (Jeff Bradley-ESPN the Magazine-8/11/08)
In 2008, Pedroia was named the American League MVP. He became the first AL second baseman to win the award since Nellie Fox in 1959.
Dustin says former teammate Alex Cora was a huge influence on his baseball career.
"Cora was a huge role model to me and taught me how to play the game at a big league level," Alex said.
In November 2008, Dustin's wife set the two of them up for a vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
August 18, 2009: Dustin's wife, Kelli, gave birth to their first child, a son, Dylan. And Dustin was with Kelli for the birth—but just barely, arriving 20 minutes before he popped out.
He had trouble getting to the hospital. After being put on a 40-person plane to Boston—where he found Sox fans surprised at his presence and eager to talk baseball—Pedroia jumped in a cab to get to the hospital.
"The cab driver wanted to talk about baseball and I’m like, ‘Dude, I will give you $100 to get me to Mass. General as fast as possible,'" Pedroia said. “So we probably were driving a little bit past the speed limit, but I think everyone understands.’
And within 48 hours, Pedey was running around to teammates boasting that his son was a "badass."
June 13, 2014: Dustin and Kelli Pedroia welcomed their third son, Brooks.
During the winter before 2010 spring training, Pedroia said he and his family vacationed in the British Virgin Islands with Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier, a close friend, and his family, renting a villa for about 10 days. Finally, a place far from Sox fans?
"I walked into a little grocery store, and the clerk was wearing a Red Sox shirt," Pedroia said. “He freaked out. Unbelievable."
Dustin had a rough 2009:
—His father, Guy, received death threats at the family's tire store after an interview his son gave in which he was quoted as saying his hometown was "a dump."
—His wife, Kelli, was in and out of the hospital because of complications with her first pregnancy, relief not coming to the anxious couple until their son, Dylan, was born healthy in August 2009.
—His older brother went to prison for a sex crime, and almost without fail, the papers identified the perpetrator as "Dustin Pedroia's brother." Brett Pedroia had played baseball, too, a catcher who made it as far as Shasta Junior College despite shattering an ankle in high school. He helped run Valley Tire with Guy and Debbie Pedroia until he was arrested and convicted six months later of committing a sexual act with a child several years before.
There had been troubling signs earlier. In 2005, Guy had had his son arrested for allegedly making threats to his parents.
Brett Pedroia's defense attorney, Steven Sabbadini, contended that Brett had a severe addiction to methamphetamines. Brett said he'd begun using while still at college, leading to a downward spiral that left him homeless at one point. He said he used drugs with the victim's mother and was strung out on meth when he committed the act for which he was convicted.
Brett was sentenced to a year in jail and eight years' probation. Dustin was left to deal with the fallout. (Gordon Edes-ESPNBoston.com-3/08/10)
Dustin's wife, Kelly, delivered their second son, Cole, on September 13, 2012.
Pedey embodies baseball the way our inner child imagines it.
"I really don't do anything except play baseball and go home and do whatever my son wants to do," Pedroia said. "Off the field I'm normal. On the field? I'm kind of a maniac."
"I love that little [guy]," says White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "It looks like he escaped from Cirque du Soleil and they put a uniform on him."
"How much he believes in himself is vital to who he is," Epstein said. "He talks more s--- than anybody in the league, and no one takes it the wrong way."
Says Francona, "I have never met anybody like him. Not Pete Rose, not anybody. That kid is everything about baseball wrapped up in that little f------ body."
Dustin doesn't drink. He has no hobbies. He never shuts up. He has two nicknames that are printable and hates them both. (A third nickname, bestowed by his manager and comic foil, Terry [Tito] Francona, is not printable.) He swings as if his life depends on it.
Teammate David Ortiz says, "I don't think there was a player born before him and I don't think there will be a player born after him that cares about baseball more than Dustin Pedroia."
In 2011, Pedroia got a new nickname, "Muddy Chicken," for his nose-in-the-dirt style play. And after the all-star break, his teammates had T-shirts to commemorate it.
First, Darnell McDonald referred to Pedroia as Laser Show. "I don't want to be called that anymore," Pedroia said.
McDonald, a bit perplexed, replied, "Well, what do you want to be called?"
"I don't know, I ... " Pedroia paused and looked around the room. He saw Ortiz hunched over a plate of chicken smothered in a sauce.
"David was eating this chicken from the Dominican Republic," Pedroia said. "I don't know who he got it from. But it was [bleeping] disgusting. So I said, 'I want to be called that.'"
"What is that?" McDonald said.
"[Bleeping] Muddy Chicken," Pedroia said.
"They started laughing, so they started calling me that," he said. "And it was a 16-inning game, and I think there were some cocktails involved in some people's interviews. That's basically it. And then we got back home and, thanks to New Balance, there are boxes of Muddy Chicken T-shirts. I'm like, What's wrong with you guys?"
"Comfort can be found in the measureables," said agent Seth Levinson. "However, greatness lies in the immeasurables. Character and the unique and extraordinary ability to unify and lead a team to heights that most thought were not possible cannot be measured. Heart and the unbridled passion and drive to win cannot be measured. Dustin's value far transcends his statistics, and he is the epitome of the player who embodies all of the immeasureables that are necessary to win."
In an interview, Pedroia criticized his home town of Woodland, California, calling it a "dump" and a city which never embraced him. This generated backlash from his hometown and his family received death threats. Pedroia later clarified his comments saying he was only joking and his comments were taken out of context.
He may be small in stature, but as we all know, Pedroia is huge on toughness. In the first game of 2013, Pedroia tore a UCL ligament in his left thumb, an injury that would require surgery. So what did Pedroia do? He agreed to have surgery … after the season ends.
Yes, Dustin Pedroia has played 157 games for the Boston Red Sox this season with a tear in his thumb, and he will continue to play into the playoffs. This isn’t the first time Pedroia has played through significant hand injuries.
During his rookie campaign in 2007, Pedroia played nearly two months with a fracture of the hamate bone in his left hand. That season ultimately ended with a World Series title followed by offseason surgery to repair the damage to that bone. Last season, despite the team having a terrible record, Pedroia played a decent number of games despite a torn finger ligament and broken finger that, yes, required offseason surgery.
Now one can say Pedroia is injury-prone, but you can also say he is the pound-for-pound toughest guy in baseball.
October 14: 2013: Pedroia's teammates continue to marvel at his non-stop engine, his tireless desire to win baseball games by any means necessary. "It's pretty crazy how he has no switch," starter Jon Lester said. "It's the same gig over and over and over for the whole season. It doesn't matter if it's Day 1 of spring or Game 7 of the World Series. You're going to get the same guy. I think that's what makes him so special. That's what kind of sets him apart in this clubhouse as the guy we look to. That never changes, never wavers.
"He's always got his finger on the game somehow. He's always finding a way to help the team, whether it's on defense or offense. He's always contributing to help us win."
In 2014, Pedroia was inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame.
WAR Report: For the four years, 2011 through 2014, Pedroia had a WAR of 7.9 in 2011 (second-best among all MLB 2nd basemen); 5.1 in 2012, again, second-best; 6.6 WAR in 2013, 2nd best among MLB keystoners for the third year in a row, and a still-outstanding 4.8, 7th best among MLB second sackers in 2014.
2015 Spring Training:Young athletes often dream of growing up to become their sports idols. One teenage girl is taking that inspiration seriously.
She switched sports and is competing with boys—all because of Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Sydney Dore is 14 years old. She’s about 5-foot-3 with blond hair, blue eyes and a big smile that’s lined with shiny braces. She’s down here for spring training. Standing near the Sox dugout at Jet Blue Park, she held a sign:
This GIRL plays JV high school BASEball because Dustin Pedroia said, “Tell us what we can’t do. Tell us what we can’t be. One of us is gonna be right.” I did and I am, so … “Go ahead. I’ve never heard it before. Tell me.” (Doug Tribou - 3/20/2015)
For Jeff Evans, the assistant director of baseball information for theSeattle Mariners, isn't exaggerating when he references day one. In 2002, he was 22 years old and beginning his second season as sports information director at Arizona State, where the Sun Devils were awaiting the arrival of their newest recruit.
"He shows up before school starts in August, and it's, like, 100 degrees in Tempe," Evans said. "We're out at the batting cage, I'm meeting some of the new freshmen, and he comes around the corner.
"I was kind of looking out for him. This little guy comes around the corner in this orange, cutoff T-shirt that he'd taken some scissors to, receding hairline, he's tiny. I look at Graham Rossini, our director of baseball operations, and I say, 'That's Pedroia?'"
The new recruit dispensed with formal introductions. "He comes over and says, 'Hey, man. I'm Dustin,'" said Evans, who then mimics what Pedroia did next, slapping his biceps. "He said, 'How do you like these guns?' And I looked at Graham and said, 'Wow this is going to be a fun three years.'
"He just took off," Evans said, pulling out a photo that shows an 18-year-old Pedroia looking so young, some movie theaters would have balked at letting him into a PG-13 flick. "He takes this gigantic hack with an aluminum bat, he's choking up, but everything he hit was a line drive. Three hits one day, two hits the next."
Laser show? Evans laughs. Pedroia didn't wait until he got to the big leagues before he came up with a name for the exhibitions he put on at the plate.
"He'd come in and say, 'Laser show today, laser show today, I'm going to hit bombs today,' then he'd go out and do it," Evans said. "That's the way he carried himself, and it didn't stop. I remember him just talking about wearing pitchers out, 'Yeah, I got him.' He never met a pitcher he didn't think he could hit.
"No fear," Evans continued. "Dustin's leading off the game against Jered Weaver, best pitcher in the country. First pitch of the game, he lines a ball to third base about as hard as you can hit a ball. He didn't even get out of the batter's box.
"On his way back to the dugout, he's yelling, 'We'll be here all day,' right at Weaver." (Gordon Edes - ESPN Boston - 5/20/15)
More from Jeff Evans, former SID at Arizona State, now with the Mariners, via Gordon Edes, ESPN Boston:
As the Sports Information Director, Evans got to know Pedroia's family. Guy Pedroia and Debbie owned a thriving tire shop back home in Woodland, California, and they were regulars at ASU games.
"They went everywhere," Evans said. "Hilo, Hawaii, Wichita, everywhere."
Evans doubled as official scorer, and admits there were times he feared Debbie's wrath. "She'd look up at the press box and give me a look," he said.
Being around Guy and Debbie, Evans said, gave him a pretty good idea why Pedroia was so driven. Debbie's brother, Phil Snow, was defensive coordinator for the ASU football team and conveyed to baseball coach Murphy that he should recruit his nephew.
"Dustin's DNA is so unique," Evans said. "Then you meet his parents, it kind of starts to make sense. Debbie is a firecracker. She was a college tennis player. You meet her, and she's this tiny, bubbly, energy-driven, life-of-the-party lady.
"Guy is more level, probably along for the ride, but Debbie was a firecracker, that's the best way I can describe her. Dustin was a good mix of the two."
Even back when he was at ASU, there was no place Pedroia preferred to be than the ballpark. He would come in the morning, watch some film, then go to class. Come back after class, watch some more film, go to another class, then come back for practice. And chances were pretty high, Evans said, that even when Pedroia was in class, he had a scouting report secreted in his textbook.
"The way he acted off the field was so special, so unique," Evans said, "and he hasn't changed. You see players change—when they get the money, play in All-Star games—but he hasn't changed one bit. There he is playing dominoes with Napoli. (in the Red Sox clubhouse)."
And on the field? "The fist-pumping, the dirty uniform, insert a game from 2003 and 2004, it's the same thing. Same plays, same demeanor. When he was at ASU, we all fed off him. Pat Murphy fed off him. The players. Even the SID. He's A-number-one in my book." (Gordon Edes - ESPN Boston - 5/20/15)
When the Red Sox are at home, Dustin Pedroia arrives at Fenway Park some 5½ or six hours before a game, and when they are on the road, he gets to the clubhouse even earlier than that. Part of the reason, Boston manager John Farrell says, is that Pedroia hates being alone in his hotel room.
Pedroia said, "I'm not a cool guy to hang with, by myself. What am I going to talk about with myself?" (Buster Olney - 5/09/16)
June 2004: The Red Sox drafted him in the second round, out of Arizona State. Dustin signed for a bonus of $575,000. Dan Madsen was the scout who signed him.
December 3, 2008: Dustin signed a six-year, $40.5 million contract with the Red Sox. Included in the deal is a seventh-year club option worth $11 million. Interestingly, that option would be waived if Pedroia is traded at any time during the contract.
By signing the contract, Pedroia gave up two potential years of free agency, which would have started in 2013.
The deal also included a $1.5 million signing bonus. Pedroia will earn $1.5 million in 2009, followed by $3.5 million in 2010, $5.5 million in 2011, $8 million in 2012, $10 million in 2013, and $10 million in 2014.
July 24, 2013: The Red Sox and Pedroia agree on a contract extension that will keep him in Boston through 2021. The extension was for seven years, starting in 2015, and $110 million.