Dustin Pedroia Comes Out Swinging
He’s not that short, can’t stand his hometown, and thinks A-Rod is a big “dork.” And even after the World Series win, even after the MVP award, he still feels he needs to fight for respect.
Woodland is a bedroom community of more than 50,000 people that lies 20 miles northwest of Sacramento. It is often described as being something out of Our Town, which is an odd point of comparison for a place once known by its early settlers as “By Hell.” “It’s a dump,” says Pedroia, whose parents run a tire store on Main Street and whose family seems to occupy a position in Woodland roughly equivalent to that enjoyed by the Grimaldis in Monaco. “You can quote me on that. I don’t give a shit.” He shakes his head.
Pedroia acknowledges he’s angry with the town for something he won’t specify, though it’s safe to assume it involves his older brother Brett’s arrest, in January, on child-molestation charges. (Brett has pleaded not guilty.) “Everyone wants to get out of there,” he goes on. “You don’t want to stay in Woodland. What do you want to stay in Woodland for? The place sucks. The newspaper there, I don’t really get along with. I come from your town. You should embrace me. I play for the Boston Red Sox. You haven’t had a lot of major-leaguers come out of your city.”
Small-town California is one of the country’s great incubators of seething resentment, which simultaneously explains both the state’s wackadoodle politics and its hotly competitive sports environment. Pedroia, like all elite athletes (and like a glowering politician from Yorba Linda named Nixon), has long been an avid, almost pathological, collector of slights, some genuine, many imagined. “I think I’m extremely bothered by negativity,” Pedroia allows. “I only surround myself with positive people, and I think negativity—it motivates me, it makes me angry, makes me a better player.” To hear it told now, he was doubted all along because of his size, lightly recruited as a prep, underappreciated as a collegian at Arizona State, dismissed outright as a farmhand with the Sox. Dustin agonistes.
“His story is very much about overcoming adversity,” says writer Edward Delaney, who is ghosting Pedroia’s forthcoming book, Born to Play. “He was a great player at every level, but questions on his size and strength caused a lot of people to dismiss him too quickly.” This is true only to an extent. At least one major-league scout, from the Phillies, was bird-dogging Pedroia hard during his high school days, and so many colleges were calling the Pedroia household during his senior year that Guy made his son whittle down his list to five programs.