Dustin Pedroia doesn't hold back in farewell to Red Sox fans, baseball

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John Tomase
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Dustin Pedroia doesn't hold back in farewell to Red Sox fans, baseball originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Highlights from Dustin Pedroia's retirement Zoom, a moment that by rights would've taken place in uniform in front of a packed Fenway Park ...

* First and foremost, Pedroia just had a partial knee replacement. At that point he already knew his career was over, but the December surgery just cemented it, since it meant he'd never run again.

That said, the procedure has proven life-altering, because Pedroia had been living a miserable existence for the prior year, struggling to stand at his kids' practice or climb a flight of stairs. He traced his struggles to last January, when he awoke one morning and his knee "looked like an explosion went off in there."

He would've had the replacement right away, but the pandemic delayed surgery until a few weeks ago, and he already notices the difference.

"I grinded every day just to play with kids and just live a normal life," he said. "My knee was bad and I'm a young guy. So December I had the surgery and a week later I could tell I could walk without pain. I could do basically everything now except run. I can't run anymore, which is fine. I don't need to run."

* A final sendoff at Fenway in uniform would've been the way he wanted to end his career, but his knee just wouldn't let that happen.

"Obviously, no one has ever played with a partial knee replacement because of the fear that if it breaks, the rest of my life would be severely impacted by it," he said. "It wasn't physically possible to continue to play baseball with a partial knee replacement.

"Once I got that done, I knew. And the team has been great in leading me in the right directions on things to do and how to get better and be better for my everyday life because I'm only 37 years old I have a long way to go."

* CEO Sam Kennedy relayed the phone call then-GM Theo Epstein shared with Pedroia after the Red Sox selected him 65th overall out of Arizona State in the 2004 draft. At that point, Epstein was only 30 years old, and he still found it off-putting when players referred to him as Mr.

But Pedroia dispensed with the pleasantries.

"Theo picks up the phone and gives him a call and is expecting the kind and respectful greetings," Kennedy said. "Pedey greets him with, 'Bro, 65th? What took you so freaking long? I got to get to the big leagues and I'm ready to win championships for the Red Sox.' And I think that just encapsulates everything we know and love about Dustin Pedroia."

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* Pedroia choked up once during the call, and it was when he was asked how he had broken the news to his three sons.

"They've seen me through six surgeries," Pedroia said. "They've seen me through a lot. I was having a tough time up until my middle son, Cole, they wanted me to coach his baseball team. I think – sorry for getting a little bit choked up – that got me through the next step of understanding that, 'Hey, there's something else I'm going to be able to do, and I'm good at it.'

"Coaching the kids and just telling them – I think they were just happy that they get their dad home all the time. They need me. So, it was hard, but I just don't want them to see me having more surgeries, not being able to walk or get my oldest son's rebounds – stuff like that. Now it's good. I'm in a good place. I can move. I can get a rebound now and just pass it to him and stand there without hurting. I don't have to ice my knee all day long to make it not look like a basketball. So I'm in a good place."

* Pedroia isn't ruling out a return to baseball sometime, but his more immediate concern is being there for his children. His youngest is six, and he can't envision jumping back into the world of baseball travel until they're off to college.

"I'm open to anything, but I want to make sure that my kids have the same upbringing that I had when I was a kid," he said. "I want to — coaching or managing, that's a lot of time and I've just played a long time and I was the first one on the field every single day and I want to make sure these years for my kids are the most important and I'm there in every single way. I don't want to miss a thing in their life. They deserve that."

If he sticks to that timetable, it would make Pedroia a managerial candidate sometime around his 50th birthday.

* Pedroia recalled his big-league debut, which came in 2006 at a low point of that season.

"We had just lost five games to the Yankees, and I met the team in Anaheim," he said. "I remember walking in there and I was the happiest kid on the planet. I remember getting in there and it was not a good environment. Everyone was upset. They had just got beat bad. They went from like a game out to . . . it was bad.

"I remember thinking, 'Man I can't wait to play tonight. We're going to turn this thing around.' I played here and there. I think I played 18, 19 games the rest of the way. There were a lot of veterans on that team. I was just happy, and I learned that hey, I can play here. It might take some time for everyone to get used to what kind of attitude I bring every day. It's a little bit different.

"I'm showing up to win every day, and I know everyone else. I just didn't want to step on anyone else's toes. I think I was 22, 23, I don't even remember, but I was ready to take off. It took me time for that to happen."

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* Pedroia noted that the allure of team sports is what made him love baseball. "If I didn't like doing that, I would have just been the best tennis player in the world,' he said. "But team sports is definitely the reason why I played, and I hope they remember me for doing all I can to set the right example."

* If Pedroia has one regret, it's that his career ended on a Zoom call in the middle of a pandemic, rather than on the field one last time in front of the fans who cheered him consistently for 15 years.

"I'd love to put the uniform on and be able to play," he said. "You have to understand, they're the best fans ever. On a Tuesday night or whatever, there's 37,000 people there going crazy. I got a chance to do that for as long as I did. To do it one more time, I mean, yeah, of course. I'd do anything to have that opportunity. But I can't. I can't run.

"That part will always hurt me. I wish I had one more time. But I don't regret anything. It is what it is. I'm OK. I just have to have everything I've learned and built up, all the energy I have, I have to give it to other people now. That's how I can help. I'm OK."