February 01, 2021

Thank you, Mr. Pedroia

With Dustin Pedroia announcing his retirement, it was time I re-shared the story of when I first met him. It was originally posted on a long-since defunct website that I maintained to convince sportswriters why they should vote for Jim Rice to get inducted into Cooperstown.  But that website was taken down about 10 years ago, so it this is a perfect time to retell this, as many of my readers will be seeing it for the first time. 

This story starts sometime in the winter of 2004, when while still basking in the afterglow of a RED SOX WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP, our family decided that we would go to Disneyland for 2005 spring break. The plan was to leave Saturday morning, spend two days driving there (about a 2 500 km/1,500 mile trip from Calgary), get a five day multi park pass, and spend the next weekend driving back home. Coincidentally (honestly – we had decided on the trip before I found this out), the Red Sox were going to play their last two spring training games in Phoenix against the Diamondbacks at their home stadium on the Thursday and Friday of the week we were planning on being in LA.

Sorry, I meant to say Anaheim.  Or Los Angeles of Anaheim. Or whatever it wants to call itself, but that’s a rant for a different time. 

Meanwhile, someone on the popular Red Sox message board SoSH had organized a get together of Red Sox fans from far and away at the Friday game. Things were coming together….I asked my nine year old son if he was interested in going to that and missing a couple of days of Disney, and he agreed that three days in Mickey Mouse land was more than enough and having a side excursion to watch some baseball sounded like fun.  It was settled then! We’d go to Disneyland, and Thursday drive to Phoenix for the evening game, stay for Friday’s matinee and meet up with the girls (his mom and sister who opted for the extra two days of Disney) back in Anaheim Friday night. 

Our vacation started as we left Calgary early morning (editor's note: not really that early) on Saturday, and after two straight days of being on the road 12-14 hours arrived at our hotel across from DisneyLand Sunday at about 10 PM. We then spent the next three full days between DisneyLand and California Adventure Park. I don’t know how much fun the rest of the family had, but I was exhausted. Thursday morning, me and my son got up early and made the drive to Phoenix.  I wanted to get there in plenty of time get inside Bank One Ballpark (aka Chase Field) as soon as the gates open. After all, the best part of spring training games is watching the batting practice! So, after seven or so hours of driving, checking in to the hotel, and waiting in line at the will call to get our tickets, we got inside the stadium.

First glimpse of this single A prospect
We quickly realize that a lot of the regulars didn't make the trip, they went from Fort Myers straight to Boston. But my son likes following the prospects and we see our top ranked guy, Hanley Ramirez, as well as another player who had yet to play a game above A ball wearing jersey #77. 

We then see some guys are signing autographs. We run towards them, but before they get to us they wander away. My son is a little disappointed. We settle in to watch the game… we’re both tired it’s been a long day and long week so far. Uneventful game finishes, we head to the hotel and get there a little after 11 at night.

Next day we get up and head to the ballpark right after breakfast, as it’s a 1 PM start. I could tell my son wasn't having a lot of fun. I suggested maybe we’d get some autographs or catch a BP ball. We got there before the gates open and made our way down to the field level to get a good view of the players warming up. A few players were signing autographs and my son patiently waited but they all left before getting to him. I then suggested going behind the outfield wall to see if maybe we could catch a BP homerun ball. While there we saw Dustin Pedroia signing autographs by the right field line. We ran to get to him, and as were about a section away he had finished signing for everyone who was there and started walking away. My son yelled out "Dustin...!”. To my pleasant surprise, he stopped, turned around and waited for us to get up to the front row. He then patiently waited while my son went through his stack of cards to find the sole Pedroia card he had. He then signed it, and I thanked him for waiting. The kid looked at me straight in the eyes (we’re about the same height!), and said "No. Thank YOU!".  And he seemed very sincere about it. 

From that point on all my son could do was talk about how excited he was that he 'met' Dustin and got his card signed. Thank you for that Mr. Pedroia. It made the long trip back to LA after the game much more bearable. And also the 24 hours of driving back home over the next two days much easier with a happy kid in the back seat rather than a disgruntled one who would have been disappointed about cutting his Disneyland trip short.  He made two fans for life that day. 

And whenever I seem him being cocky, or doing the whole Laser Show bit I know it’s just his public persona, and that he is a genuinely humble guy.  Thank you for the memories!

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