Dustin Pedroia Comes Out Swinging
The new face of baseball, at the dawn of what we’re now all solemnly calling the Post-Steroid Era, has a scratchy sort of beard that has annexed the lower precincts of his cheekbones and a nose that curves faintly skyward, giving him the perpetual air of someone looking up at the world. "I got measured yesterday," Dustin Pedroia, the Red Sox second baseman, is saying.
He is sitting in the shade outside the Red Sox’s training facility in Fort Myers, Florida, sipping a Red Bull, having just completed the first day of full-squad workouts. This is his third training camp as a major-leaguer, and arguably his first as an authentic baseball phenomenon, and shortly before arriving—after an off-season in which Pedroia won the American League MVP award and signed a six-year, $40.5 million extension with the Sox—he pronounced himself both "shredded" and "jacked," which makes him sound like something recently emerged from a chop shop but which you’ll be relieved to know is actually a good thing. These days, he looks little like the pudgy kid who was riding buses in Pawtucket until his call-up in 2006. He is leaner now, his body fat down from nearly 17 percent to 10 percent. His hair on top is thinning noticeably, both at the crown and above the temples; his father, Guy, likes to joke that he can measure his son’s anxiety during the season by how far his hairline has receded. Depending on where you’re standing, Pedroia can look either impudently boyish or prematurely middle-aged, which is to say that the new face of baseball, at the dawn of what we’re now all solemnly calling the Post-Steroid Era, is Opie, age 25.
Let us listen now as he settles a matter of great and enduring debate.
"My legitimate height and weight…," he says, answering a question no one has asked but he probably knew was inevitable. "I’m 5-8, 170."
People will scoff, but this has the virtue of being at least reasonably official, not to mention mostly consistent with the last measurement his father took, more than five years ago, when he leveled a yardstick on Pedroia’s head and snicked a line onto the wall of the family garage. We can now say with some authority that, though he is not 5-foot-9 (as the media guide would have it), he is certainly not 5-foot-6 (as everyone else would have it) or 5-foot-5 (as he told reporters the other day) or 4-foot-8 (as a teammate told reporters during the 2007 American League Championship Series). He is not "part midget" (as one of his old coaches described him) or a "goddamn jockey" (as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen called him). He is an inch shorter and a few pounds lighter than the American mean, and an inch taller and a few pounds heavier than the game’s greatest second baseman, Joe Morgan, which suggests that he is as tall and as heavy as he needs to be.
"His size is part of who he is," says Theo Epstein, the Red Sox general manager. "His whole life people have been reacting to him, initially, in a certain manner, and his whole life he’s been channeling that and turning it around and laughing as he steps right over them."