- By Ollie Walden
One of the most competitive and gritty players in the game today plays second base for the Boston Red Sox. He has laid claim to several of the games top awards including the 2007 American League Rookie of the Year and the 2008 American League MVP Award when he finished second in batting average and also won a Gold Glove and was selected to his first All Star game. Boston's Dustin Pedroia is the player that I am describing to you and he has accomplished these feats in just a handful of seasons. I would also like to mention that Dustin Pedroia stands only 5 foot 9 and 180 pounds. This is not the menacing monster that you would normally picture when someone lists to you all the accomplishments that I mentioned he has achieved earlier.
Dustin Pedroia was drafted by the Boston Red Sox with the 65th overall pick in the second round of the 2004 MLB draft. Dustin was the eighth shortstop selected in that year's draft. He played his college ball for Arizona State University after growing up in California. Dustin started all 185 games of his college career at shortstop and posted a career batting average of .384 for his three years as a Sun Devil. After being drafted by the Red Sox in 2004, Dustin spent two seasons in the minors, where he played both second base and shortstop and posted a .308 batting average.
After a late season call up in 2006, Dustin became the starting second baseman in the 2007 season. Dustin played solid defense with a .990 fielding percentage and his batting improved throughout the season after a slump to start off the season. Dustin would go on to win the 2007 American League Rookie of the year in his first full season, but maybe his most impressive play that season was his diving stop in the seventh inning to help preserve teammate Clay Buchholz's September 1 no-hitter.
During the 2007 World Series, Dustin became the first rookie ever to lead off the series with a home run and the first player to do so since 1969. Dustin Pedroia batted .278 with five hits including that home run in helping lead the Red Sox to a four game sweep of the Colorado Rockies and the World Series title. Dustin was able to raise the bar even higher in 2008 when he would go on to win the AL MVP (the first by a second baseman since 1959) and become the first player since Cal Ripken Jr. in 1983 to lead the league in hits, doubles and runs scored. Dustin also stole 20 bases out of 21 attempts to lead the league in stolen base percentage. He would win a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award for second base and become only the third player ever to win the Rookie of the year and League MVP awards in back to back seasons joining Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard.
While the entire Red Sox team struggled in the 2008 ALCS against Tampa Bay, Dustin was smoking at the plate with a .346 batting average and .731 slugging percentage against the Rays impressive pitching staff. Dustin connected for 9 hits including 3 home runs and a double, but it wasn't enough as the rest of the team hit just .234 and the Tampa Bay Rays upset the Boston Red Sox in seven games. Dustin's solo home run in the first inning of game seven was the Red Sox lone run in a 3-1 loss against Tampa Bay. In December of 2008, Dustin would sign a six year extension worth 40.5 million to stay a Red Sox for a long time.
In the 2009 season, Dustin led the American League for the second consecutive year in runs scored and finished third in doubles that season while also being selected to his second straight All Star appearance although he wasn't able to attend due to his wife's pregnancy. Boston would go on to fall in three games to the Los Angeles Angels in the first round of the American League divisional playoffs that season. The 2010 season saw Dustin spend his first extended time on the disable list when he fouled a ball off his foot that broke a bone in his foot. He still put up good enough numbers to be selected to his third All Star game although he was unable to participate and was replaced by Ian Kinsler. Dustin returned in late August for 2 games before having to be placed back on the disabled list.
The Red Sox are hoping for a huge return to form for Dustin in 2011 and for a return to the playoffs that Boston missed out on in the 2010 season. Although small in stature, Dustin Pedroia's play has led his team to the highest of highs in winning a World Series title and he continues to deliver day in and day out on the diamond with his bat and his glove for the Red Sox Nation.