Earlier this morning Boston Red Sox's second baseman and ASU alum Dustin Pedroia got the call confirming that he was the American League rookie of the year. Pedroia is the sixth Red Sox and fourth Sun Devil to receive the A.L.'s rookie of the year award. The previous Sox was Nomar Garciaparra in 1997, and the previous Sun Devil was Pat Listach in 1992 for the Milwaukee Brewers.
"I'm pretty excited," Pedroia said Monday afternoon at ASU's Packard Stadium. "It's definitely a huge day for me and my family."
Pedroia spends time in Tempe during the off season working out and taking batting practice with local guys and his old coach, Pat Murphy. Pedroia said that going through ASU's intense baseball program prepared him for the big leagues.
"It doesn't matter how big you are or what kind of athlete you are," he said. "it matters what kind of mental makeup you have. Because when you reach a certain level, there are a lot of guys that have the same ability." Pedroia's skill as a player was constantly questioned during his career because of his below average 5'9'' (according to MLB.com) frame, he said.
"I think it is to the point now where I don't think there's anything much more to say," Pedroia said about his body. "Yea I'm five seven or eight or whatever the heck they list me at. But we won the World Series and I was a part of that. So there is nothing else you could say."
Pedroia batted .317 and belted eight homeruns, with 50 RBI in 139 games with the Red Sox in his first season. Pedroia had a slow start to the 2007 campaign and will be the first person to admit it. "I hit .182 in April," he said. "So to bounce back from that, especially in an environment like Boston, people were ready to throw me off a bridge." He went on to lead all big league rookies with 39 doubles, ranked second with .380 on base percentage, and had 86 runs scored ranked for third.
Pedroia received 24 out of 28 possible first place votes in balloting along with four second place votes giving him 132 total points. The runner up, Delmon Young of Tampa Bay, received 56 total points.
Playing in the World Series was the time of his life, Pedroia said. "You never know how many opportunities you are going to get to play in the World Series. So to do that was definitely a huge accomplishment for our team," he said about beating the Colorado Rockies who were on a hot streak towards the end of the year.
"It took some time," Pedroia said about becoming a beloved part of the Red Sox nation, which can make or break a career in Boston. "That first month was obviously tough. I worked really hard to get into a position to contribute and help our team win. I got some big hits and the fans kind of took note that you don't have to be the biggest guy in the world to help your team win a World Series. "
Pedroia was called up by Boston in August of 2006 and saw limited playing time that year. "Everything happened so fast when I got called up," he said. "So this year I just wanted to try to help us win."
Pedroia played the postseason with a cracked hamate bone, which is at the base of the pinky and ring finger near the wrist, of his left hand. He still sports a gauze cast on his left hand and said it will be coming off this Friday.
Still consumed by excitement Pedroia couldn't keep a smile off of his face. "I never thought that this would happen," he said. "Now it is about letting it all sink in a getting ready for next season." 2008 is not going to be a walk in the park for Pedroia though, who said that he needs to prove himself every day.
"I won Rookie of the Year but guess what; next year they're going to doubt me because I had a bad April," he said. "So I have to hit higher than .182 next April."
When asked about the ASU football team who will face the University of Arizona on December 1 in Tempe Pedroia asked "What is (U of A's) record?" After a reporter told him 4-6, Pedroia grinned and through the side of his mouth mumbled "they stink," to much laughter. "Obviously I hope ASU is going to win," he added.
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