Red Sox Dustin Pedroia’s book- insights into the man, league, and sport

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Dustin Pedroia /

I finished the 261 pages of Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia’s book and had a better understanding about chasing your dreams, the impact of people, and Dustin.

The book “Born to Play: My Life in the Game” by Dustin Pedroia with Edward J. Delaney gave me a completely different view about the Red Sox second baseman. Fair warning, spoiler alerts are mentioned below.

Pedroia discusses his story, the difficulties he’s faced, his love for the game, his driving need to compete, his dedication, and the road he followed to make it where he is. His story is one about hard work, the village it took to help him rise in the game and in life, and the ups and the downs faced by an athlete who was pegged as being “too small”.

I read an insider’s view into the MLB player that was initially refused entry into Coors Field to face the Colorado Rockies in Game Three of the World Series because the security guard didn’t believe that this small statured kid could possibly be an MLB player. A National League scout openly discusses his misbegotten view that the small guy would never amount to much.

Dustin’s not a player known to give up at-bats. Every time he steps into the batter’s box, he makes the pitcher work intelligently for every strike.

"“He is a tough, tough out,” the misbegotten scout added. “The pitch that maybe you get him on one time, you don’t get him on again, even in the same at-bat sometimes.”"

The scout originally coined Pedroia as a guy that could at best hit an MLB average, couldn’t throw or run and was only an average defensive player. Dustin Pedroia? The small guy who ended up being named Rookie of the Year. The guy who was MVP. The one with a career .300 BA, 724 RBIs, 140 HRs, .366 OBP, and a .440 SLG.

He played with a chip on his shoulder, proving many skeptics wrong. There’s something unbelievably compelling about those who prove everyone wrong and exceed all expectations. The guys like Aaron Rodgers, Steph Curry, and Alex Burrows. They capture our attention. They give us something to root for that goes beyond being a player for a team we love. Their passion and defiance to beat all odds give us something to believe in. It gives us hope that in our own ways, we too can chase dreams that seem crazy and out of our reach.

Pedroia recants his earliest memory: swinging a mini San Francisco Giants bat. From memories of swinging bats at everything in front of him to family road trips to Berkeley (a team his uncle coached), we get an inside view into what it was like growing up Dustin. We learn about his grandfather who was a truck driver for fifty years and his parents who owned, managed, and worked at three tire stores around Sacramento. Guy Pedroia, Dustin’s father, started working at a tire store at the age of fourteen and took over the responsibility of the store years later. His parents worked 14-hour days. Pedroia learned about hard work and dedication from their example.

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He gained his competitive nature from his mom. He became a devoted athlete because of the lack of things to do in his hometown, Woodland. He grew up with a love for the Giants. Pedroia was entranced watching Barry Bonds play. He grew up watching the 49ers and the Sacramento Kings.

From a young age, he played with a chip on his shoulder. He would tag around with his older brother and try to play sports with them. When he was given the opportunity, he needed to prove that he was a solid player and that he was capable. Dustin was the first guy to run into the box to increase his offensive abilities with a top speed-wild pitching machine at a local hitting clinic. He didn’t fear getting hit by a fastball.

At the age of thirteen, Dustin filed in as shortstop for his older brother, Brett’s Shasta College team. Many of the players on the team questioned the decision to let Dustin play. But since the team didn’t have enough players to play that day, they reluctantly allowed him. Pedroia went 4-for-4 in that game, proving his competency and abilities.

During his senior year in high school, Pedroia played in an elite baseball program. Ron McNutt, Carson Capitols Coach said this about Dustin and what he learned in the time they spent together:

"“He had the mannerisms, work ethics, and attitude of being very professional, even at that young age. He was one of those rare players who you could see would go to higher levels not just because of his ability, but because of the way he went about things. He had heart and obvious determination. He was a winner. He was also dedicated to his family. They were his positive support and encouragement and also spent the summer watching Dustin play for the Capitols wherever the games took us.”"

Pat Murphy, Dustin’s head coach at Arizona State University, describes Dustin as a player that makes the other players on his team better. He holds guys accountable, he leads by example. As a coach, you’re part strategist, part psychologist, and part businessman (or businesswoman). The success of a coach is dependent upon understanding his players. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses, but also knowing what makes them tick. Understanding how to motivate and push in order for them to grow and excel at new levels. Murphy learned that the way to motivate Pedroia was by telling him he can’t do something. Proving people wrong is what makes him tick.

The book goes on to share details about his time at Arizona State, his time climbing the ladder in the minors, and his time in the majors. His ups, his downs, his sideways. With the help of Edward J. Delaney, Pedroia opens up and shows readers the man behind the player. He talks about playing through injuries, shares how he got called up to the majors, his rocky start. He mentions what it was like playing with Hanley Ramirez, the shock when the top prospect and presumed shortstop answer was traded to the Florida Marlins, and the feelings of uncertainty that the situation brought him. Now Manager, Alex Cora, recants what it was like playing with Dustin, getting to know him, and the mentor role he played for Dustin.

I’ve read my fair share of sports books, but there’s something about Born to Play: My Life in the Game that resonated with me. Maybe that had to do with the way Pedroia explains how his passion for sports was birthed, his journey of chasing his dreams, playing at the field with the “mini green monster” to playing at Fenway, and how he describes his relationships both on the field and off. Or Terry Francona’s thoughts about the second baseman, listening to Steve Hyder (Pawtucket Red Sox announcer) share his memories of Dustin being called up, what Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson and others thought about him.

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More and more players are writing books nowadays. I truly believe that’s an incredible thing. Fans follow you along your journey, but really only see one side of you. I strongly recommend reading Dustin Pedroia and Edward J. Delaney’s Born to Play: My Life in the Game to any Red Sox fan or to any underdog that’s been told that they “can’t make it” because of circumstances beyond your control.