Dustin Pedroia, the gritty Red Sox second baseman who persevered through years of injuries, announced his retirement from baseball Monday.
When he was drafted by the Red Sox out of Arizona State in 2004, he had never been to the area. Nearly 17 years later, he looks back fondly on his time with the team and in Boston.
“I didn’t know a lot about the organization or Boston or anything, but then I got drafted and saw how the people treat you.” Pedroia said Monday.
”I’ve spent almost half my life being a Red Sox and I’ve played for one ownership group. The GMs, and the front office people that have been there the entire time … those aren’t just people I’ve worked for, those people are family.
“The Boston Red Sox, to me, is … I can’t even explain it. It means everything. I started my family [in Boston], my kids were born in Boston, every day I woke up looking to find a way to help our team win a baseball game and I got to do it in front of the best fans in the best city.
“I wish I enjoyed it a little more at the time because my mind was so focused on the task at hand.”
What does Pedroia look back at most fondly? Playing to win.
“I’m most proud of the environment and culture that we all helped to build there, and the expectations,” he said. “I know that the fan base and everything, it demands a lot, but as a player, you want to hold each other accountable. Every year, your goal is to win a World Series and that is what I’m most proud of.
“There wasn’t a single season that I showed up to Fort Myers that I didn’t think our team could win the World Series, and I’m proud of that. And I think our front office and ownership should be proud of it, and our teammates should be proud of it.
“There wasn’t a time where we were like, ‘Oh, we should just play baseball and have some fun.’ ”
Pedroia has three World Series rings — 2007, 2013, and 2018 — but was on the postseason roster for only the first two, after knee injuries kept him out of all but nine games in his final three seasons in the big leagues.
The endless evaluations and surgeries, including a partial knee replacement in December, prompted Pedroia’s retirement.
And when he got the opportunity to coach his son Cole’s baseball team, he saw a path forward.
“That got me through the next step,” he said, choking up with tears. “And that’s something else that I’m going to be able to do and I’m good at it.
“[The children] are happy that they get to have your dad at home all the time, and they need me.
“It was hard, but I just don’t want them to see me having more surgery and not being able to walk or get my oldest son’s rebounds, and stuff like that. Now it’s good, I’m in a good place.”
Pedroia said he took the same approach during his entire career: Don’t take it for granted, and don’t take a play off.
“This could be my last game, you don’t know,” he said of his mind-set. “That’s how I approached it from Little League on.
“I’m proud of every step my baseball career had to offer.”
If given the opportunity, would Pedroia try to take the field once more at Fenway Park? Absolutely, he says.
“You’ve got to understand, they’re the best fans ever,” he said. “On a Tuesday night, there’s 37,000 people there, and they’re going crazy. And I got a chance to do it as long as I did.
“To do it one more time, yeah, of course, I’d do anything to have that opportunity. But I can’t. I can’t run. That part will always hurt me.
“I wish I had one more time, but I don’t regret anything. It is what it is. I’m OK. I just have to take everything I’ve learned and built up and all the energy I have, I have to give it to other people now. That’s how I can help. But I’m OK.”
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