May 22, 2004
By Dennis Waszak Jr.
AP Sports Writer
Dustin Pedroia's small stature has never prevented him from making a big impact on the baseball field.
The Arizona State shortstop, generously listed at 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds, has put together three of the best all-around seasons in Sun Devils history.
"I've been doing this my whole life," said the junior leadoff hitter from Woodland, Calif. "I've always been the underdog, and I keep proving people wrong - and that's the only way to go."
Pedroia's size is what people notice when they first see him play. He makes sure it's the last thing on their minds by the time a game's over.
"He's the epitome of college baseball," Arizona State coach Pat Murphy said. "Dustin Pedroia, in my 20 years as a head coach, is the best story I've been around. He's the classic overachiever. And it's at a level where it's not just a level of survival; it's a level of excellence and a level of sustained excellence. This kid is really special."
Pedroia has transformed himself into a legitimate pro prospect a possible first- or second-rounder in this year's draft. He's one of the country's best defensive players who routinely makes dazzling plays.
"I try to not be known as just a defensive player I want to be an all-around player," said Pedroia, who has used the same glove for the last 12 years. "You know, play good defense and take hits away from guys, but I also want to score a lot of runs. Scoring, driving in guys, getting on base, just causing the other team problems and trying to help our team win _ that's the only thing I care about."
Pedroia led the Pac-10 with a .415 batting average, and had nine home runs, 48 RBIs and 23 doubles while leading the Sun Devils (38-13) to a top-15 ranking heading into this weekend's series at Arizona.
The past two summers, Pedroia was the starting shortstop for the U.S. national team. He was a first-team All-American, the Pac-10 co-player of the year, and the national defensive player of the year last season.
He's tied for sixth in Sun Devils history with a .389 career batting average, and needed just 10 hits for 300. His 70 career doubles, including a school- and conference-record 34 last year, rank third in school history.
And maybe even most impressive, Pedroia has started every game in his college career - 177 and counting.
"Baseball's just part of him," Murphy said. "Everybody gives him respect. They know that Dustin's there an hour before every practice with his uniform on. He's done that for three years. He's gotten a lot of attention and he's won every award you can think of, but he's still there every day early. He's a throwback, and he's a kid who leads by the way he attacks the game."
Pedroia displayed his intense desire to win and outstanding leadership qualities after his freshman year, when he gave back his full scholarship following Arizona State's loss to Houston in the regionals.
"It was just the worst feeling ever," he said. "I told Coach, 'You know, I'm on a big scholarship. You can have that back to get a pitcher or anything we need because I want to win, and I know what this thing is all about now.'"
Murphy acknowledges he was a bit skeptical of Pedroia's abilities when he first saw him. Pedroia was just about 5-5 and 140 pounds and struggled defensively, but worked hard to get better, stronger and more comfortable on the field.
It shouldn't be long before Pedroia settles into a major league team's future plans.
"I know playing baseball, it doesn't matter how big you are," Pedroia said. "There are guys in the big leagues right now who probably aren't as big as me. I think everyone knows that I'm a baseball player - size doesn't matter. And they all know what I bring to the table."