THE MVP, THE COACHES, THE BAT
This post was written one week before Dustin Pedroia was announced as the winner of the 2008 Al MVP Award.
Artists paint and musicians compose. Artists do their thang. It comes from inside. Who knows why. Only those closest to Dustin Pedroia know what is driving him to be the competitive, overachieving pride of Woodland, California.
Something burns inside Pedroia.
Don’t take my word for it. Read what his Woodland High School Coaches & A.D. have to say……
5 VS. 1 IS A FAIR FIGHT
The Woodland Athletic Director
JOHN MORELLI is the current AD at Woodland H.S. in Woodland, California and knew Pedroia even earlier. John recalls that in Jr. High, Dustin played shortstop, may have pitched his first year, showed versatility, and shined like a star throughout his entire youth career.
Pedroia is a 2001 graduate of Woodland High School where he was a three-time All-Delta League selection, never hit below .445, and captured league MVP honors. He took All State and area honors multiple times.
Woodland is a farming community of under 60,000 residents located west of Sacramento.
Woodlanders read the Bee, but more often read the Daily Democrat. High school kids read The Orange Peal. Their farms produce corn, wheat, sunflower — and tomatoes that end up in your ketchup bottle.
Mr.Morelli has seen the current Red Sox second baseman & MVP-contender play occasionally on regular TV. John does not have cable, which gives him a Thoreau-like balance most of us lack.
When John thinks of Dustin’s MVP possibilities he says that it’s just plain fantastic to have a young man from Woodland succeeding in MLB on the highest level.
John says the MVP talk comes up in the faculty lounges, at the football games, the volleyball games, and elsewhere around Woodland.
John says Dustin has raised Woodland’s profile & made everyone proud. It’s not every day a Woodland kid hits the pro’s, although the town was made proud by Tony Torcato. Torcato batted .298 in 43 Games as a lefty corner outfielder for The SF Giants between 2002 and 2005.
John says Dustin stood out from the start. When bombardment was played in gym class, the teachers marveled at how Pedroia did simultaneously avoid a ball, catch a ball, and throw yet another ball to knock a player out. ALL SIMULTANEOUSLY.
Dustin’s coordination is so good that John Morelli was comfortable challenging him against a team of 5.
5 vs. 1.
Bombardment, in John’s opinion, is a good measuring tool and Dustin was one of the very best.
He never lost.
John says the scuttlebutt on Dustin in H.S. is just what it was in MLB, …he’s awful small, he hits well, he makes no errors, he reads situations well, he runs well, he goes 110% all the time ……but it’s doubtful he will make it due to size…..
Based on what John Morelli knows of Pedroia’s 2008 performance and the competition for the award this year, the MVP has certainly been earned by DP in John’s mind. He can’t imagine someone else taking it away.
HE NEVER GETS BEAT & IT’S C-O-N-T-A-G-I-O-U-S
The Woodland Assistant Coach
FELIX CASTILLO is the current Baseball Coach at Woodland. He served as Assistant Coach when Dustin was there. To Felix, Pedroia is a character guy.
Felix believes Pedroia is able to perform above his limited size, strength & speed due to his mental approach. He has the talent, but he also has a contagious will to win. Pedroia gets a team going in the right direction. Anytime you can get a leader with his type of confidence and toughness it will be passed to his team mates.
With regard for the MVP consideration, Felix feels Pedroia’s numbers speak for themselves. And when you consider that Manny Ramirez departed on July 31, it is even more remarkable how far Pedroia took the BoSox. “I believe he’s got to be the guy who takes the MVP.”, says Castillo.
Felix suspects that what enables Dustin to perform above his limits is character. To paraphrase Felix: It’s his confidence. He rises to the occasion, has mental confidence, Superstar guts. Pedroia is driven only by winning so he plays with enthusiasm, and he never gets beat. If he gets no hits in a game, he considers it a fluke. And he’s big in a game 7 situation.
Felix touts Pedroia’s defense as phenomenal, endowed with incredible hand-eye, without great speed but with great range, has a knack for making plays you don’t see often, certainly deserving a Gold Glove Award this year.
How does Felix feel about Dustin as an MVP candidate ? “It couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
Felix’s best memory of a Pedroia performance is the famous Clovis game. Rob Rinaldi will share the details next…….
HE WAS GOING TO FIND A WAY TO WIN.
The Baseball Coach
ROB RINALDI, Baseball Coach when Dustin was at Woodland, is eloquent about Dustin’s MVP credentials: “Clearly I’m not objective…he should win…he’s a difference maker in so many ways…..he’s an iron man while others get hurt…guys in the clubhouse see it and respect it…. He works long pitch counts and has the fire everyday……..last (rookie) year they were going to have him bat 9th and play defense and he went way above and beyond expectations….”
Rinaldi coached Dustin’s older brother, Brett. Little Dustin came to Brett’s High School practices as a Little Leaguer. As he took BP with the older boys, “he thought he was as good as the varsity guys, he wanted it at the same speed, and hit liners all over the field. He was a Switch then, dabbling as a lefty hitter.”
Rob recalls that Dustin was the Quarterback of the Freshman Football team. As a QB, Pedroia couldn’t run, but was a great leader. Dustin broke his leg on the gridiron, so severely broke it that Dustin didn’t join Frosh Baseball until mid-year, and then he played hobbled.
Even hobbled, it took just two games for Rob to realize that Pedroia was the best among many good baseball players. The injury ended Dustin’s football career and pre-empted one as a basketball point guard, another position at another sport for which he showed promise.
Outstanding among the memories at Woodland High was Dustin’s performance in a game against Clovis at the 2001 National Classic, the biggest High School Baseball Tournament of them all. Clovis had already won two mythical National titles & were inherently regarded with respect. Clovis had an extremely talented shortstop that Rinaldi had coached in camp the prior year. All year long, Rinaldi told Pedroia that the Clovis shortstop was of the highest caliber, building up the kid for 12 months until the day Clovis and Woodland checked into the same hotel before playing in the National Classic Consolation Game. Rinaldi said that when Pedroia learned the Clovis shortstop was in the house he blurted, “Which guy is he ? Go get him right now. I want to take grounders in the parking lot against him.”
The competitive fires burn with this guy.
Rob recalls that the Clovis kid had a great game. But the game Pedroia had was singular. First, Dustin put his team up 1-0 to the shock of the other team by scoring on a tag up from 3rd on a foul pop caught in front of one of the dugouts. Who the tags up and beats a throw from 90 feet ? A heady play. Next, with Woodland down 3-1 in the top of the 7th (and final) inning, Pedroia hits a 3-run homer to create a 4-3 lead. Last, in the field for the final 3 outs in the bottom of the 7th, Dustin starts a difficult double play, and then registers the 3rd out, closing out Clovis.
He was going to find a way to win.
He was going to show that Clovis kid who was better.
Rob makes the point that while Pedroia is the picture of competitiveness on the field, away from the field he is a great guy….no conceit or arrogance.
Bring him to Boston. Let him do his thang. Before you know it, he’ll be running the place.
I regret to say that schedules didn’t permit ASU Coach PAT MURPHY to speak with me, but Murphy graciously answered a few questions by email.
Question: Why is it Pedroia is able to perform above his limited size, strength & speed ?
Coach Murphy: Because his belief system is the best.
Question: What are your thoughts about Pedroia getting MVP consideration this year ?
Coach Murphy: He will win it.
Question: What is the most memorable performance or event involving Pedroia at ASU ?
Coach Murphy: Not just one! He was awesome for 3 years, every day.
A FEW QUESTIONS THAT REPEAT AND REPEAT
Athomeatfenway.com is repeatedly asked several questions about Dustin Pedroia. The questions pertain to Dustin’s ethnicity, and the specs of the bat he swings. Here are some reactions from the Coaches.
WHAT BAT DOES DUSTIN PEDROIA SWING ?
There’s a mystery about Dustin’s lumber. Listed at 5’9”, assumed widely to be 5’6” tall, his bat looks disproportionately large for a small player. With his height in dispute, speculation on bat specs become uncertain, too.
The Coaches, who should know better than anyone, made educated guesses.
Felix Castillo: 32 or 33 inches long weighing 30 oz.
Rob Rinaldi: 32.5 inches long weighing 31 oz.
Coach Murphy: 33 ½ inches in length, weighing 31 oz
Based on a little inside info from Rob, I’ll bet on the Rinaldi answer.
DUSTIN PEDROIA : ETHNICITY
We get questions like “Is Dustin Pedroia Italian ?” every week presumably from fans who are Italian themselves and hope to confirm they share the same heritage. In various conversations with Woodland folk who know Dustin, the speculation is that he is of Spanish, and/or Portugese and/or Italian heritage.
He’s the quintessential American then, isn’t he ?
Well, that clears it up. Doesn’t it ?
PEDROIA OR HAMILTON
Josh Hamilton had a terrific year. He topped Dustin in RBI, homers, triples, BB, Slugging & striking out. Dustin beat Hamilton in B.A., Hits, Runs, doubles, stolen bases, sacrefice hits and to the bad side, grounding into double plays.. The Stats:
Hamilton played for team without a pitching staff.
Dustin carried a team that suffered a frequent lack of timely hitting. He fueled the Sox after Manny left.
Hamilton is a basher, and basher’s get the benefit of the doubt with MVP voters.
Hamilton’s personal story is one of addiction-recovery and religous-discovery over the 3 years.
Pedroia’s personal story is one of achieving beyond all expectations for a lifetime.
Hamilton is worthy of MVP votes.
But he’s no Dustin Pedroia.
What we see with Pedroia is like what we saw with Tony Gwynn. Gwynn lacked the body and speed to be a HOFer & Batting King, but he sure did do it.
Pedroia may be in the process of defining the post-steroid All Star. We’ll soon find out. His canvas is just partially completed.
Although none of his Coaches can be charged with impartiality, they are nonetheless correct.
The little guy has got to be the MVP.