June 3, 2004
By Bob Moran, East Valley Tribune Tribune (June 3, 2004)
Shortstop Dustin Pedroia has played himself into one of the best baseball players to put on an Arizona State uniform.
But the accolade means little to him.
"I honestly don't think people remember players," he said. "They remember the teams. You look up (on the outfield wall) and see those (national championship) teams. No one remembers who played on those teams; they just remember the teams that went and won it all.
"Hopefully, I won't be remembered. I hope the 2004 team does get remembered."
Pedroia and the 17th-ranked Sun Devils (40-16) return to the scene of where the 2003 Devils fell one game short of going to the College World Series.
The Devils lost two of three games at Cal State Fullerton in the NCAA super regional, a playoff series that Pedroia would just as soon forget for more than the losses.
Against the Titans, he was hitless in 13 plate appearances. His uncharacteristic plate performance cost him the Pac-10 batting title and was one reason the Devils had only 10 hits and scored two runs in the losses.
"It's over," Pedroia said of the hitless series. "That was a year ago. I'm a lot better ballplayer and teammate than last year. I've been through a lot more than that to let an 0-for-13 bother me.
"If I go over there and take another 0-for-13, it'll be better than last year's. I'm going to do something to help the team win that second game."
The disappointment of falling a game short has fueled this year's performance, probably his last as a Sun Devil. He is expected to be a high pick when major league baseball holds its annual draft.
"I've used that motivation all year, in workouts and practice," said Pedroia, whose glove work at shortstop will long be remembered at ASU.
The results have been another spectacular season for the Woodland, Calif., resident.
A finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, Pedroia is hitting .395 with nine homers and 48 RBIs. He leads the Pac-10 in runs (76), hits (92) and doubles (24).
Pedroia set the school record in doubles (34) last year. He also ranks in the career top 10 in five offensive categories, including seventh with a .384 career batting average.
All this from a guy who was 5-foot-6 and weighed 145 pounds when he arrived in the fall of 2001.
"This is a tough game to be that successful that consistently," ASU coach Pat Murphy said. "His physical limitations must not be that debilitating.
"People (have concerns about) his physical attributes. He shows up every day. Every day. He's a baller. He's got a big heart."
Fifth-year senior second baseman Nick Walsh remembers the first time he saw Pedroia he had questions about his new teammate.
"When he came out for fall ball, we knew he was good, but he couldn't field a ground ball," he said. "On top of that he was homesick.
"He's a lot more mature now. He can handle failure."
Of course there hasn't been much failure in Pedroia's three seasons. His only disappointment is not having played at the College World Series.
His desire to win was so strong he returned the partial scholarship he had so Murphy could use it to sign players that would help him get to Omaha.
"That's what you dream about, playing in the College World Series," Pedroia said. "We're going to make sure that (failing) doesn't happen this year."