There was a lot of hope this season within the Boston Red Sox organization that Dustin Pedroia, a face of the franchise over the last decade, would finally return to everyday baseball activities after struggling with a knee injury over the last two years. While the outlook was optimistic coming into spring training, the season began and Pedroia was still unable to return to standard baseball activities.
That optimism slowly dwindled, and as the Sox near the end of May, fans and teammates alike are starting to come to terms with the fact that they may never see Pedroia play again. On Monday, the team held a press conference with Pedroia, during which he said his knee will “never heal” and he’ll take some time away from the game while coming to terms with that. From the sounds of it, he’ll consider retirement as well during this time, and if this is it, it’s been quite a ride for Pedroia and his legion of faithful fans.
The feisty second baseman burst onto the scene in 2007, winning Rookie of the Year while playing a big part in bringing Boston their second World Series title in four years. He emerged as a leader for a franchise and a fanbase that has always loved their underdogs. He won MVP in 2008, and for the next six years became as synonymous with Red Sox baseball as David Ortiz, accumulating a .299 career average and over 1,800 hits. He and his teammates rallied for an unlikely championship in 2013 to bring together a city shaken to its core following the Boston Marathon bombings.
Growing up watching Pedroia, it was always about more than baseball. Watching a 5’9″ second baseman take gigantic cuts at every pitch (and connecting more often than he should have) was mesmerizing. Ortiz was firmly entrenched as a favorite in every Sox household, but the chances of a plump Irish kid like me becoming a beefy 6’3″ DH who can mash monster home runs onto Causeway Street were slim. So for myself, and thousands of kids just like me, Pedroia became the idol we fawned over. It didn’t matter that he was undersized and didn’t look like he belonged. He competed like a maniac to make up for any deficiencies in his stature. It was never boring watching the scrappiest player in the league dust up his uniform every day diving for ground balls up the middle.
So if this is it for Pedroia, it was a hell of a run. Three World Series championships (even though he didn’t play on last year’s team it still counts), an MVP trophy, a generation of young ballplayers inspired, and a city that will continue to idolize him for decades to come. He was never supposed to be this good, just like the 2013 Red Sox were never supposed to win a championship. Pedroia defied the odds as long as he could. It’s only natural he goes down fighting to play until he can barely walk. It’s who he was as a player, and how we’ll remember him.