Pedroia feted at Fenway, headed to Sox Hall

June 26th, 2021

BOSTON -- Back at Fenway Park for the first time in more than two years, Red Sox icon was honored in spirited fashion by the only team and fan base he ever played for on Friday.

The end of Pedroia’s playing career officially occurred on Feb. 1, thanks to a left knee injury he simply couldn’t get over. In truth, it had been over for a couple of years, as each attempted comeback hit potholes so painful that even one of the strongest-willed players in Red Sox history couldn’t overcome them.

Finally, Pedroia got the chance for some closure.

“I needed that,” said Pedroia. “My playing career just ended. I couldn’t get back out there. I needed closure. That was a special way to do it. It definitely felt like the pit I’ve had for a long time, it’s gone away.”

During the ceremony that preceded Boston's 5-3 win over the Yankees, Pedroia was surprised to learn that he will be part of the Red Sox Hall of Fame Class of 2022. Typically, a player has to be retired for five seasons before being eligible for that honor.

In this case, there was really no reason to wait.

“Yeah, that’s awesome,” said Pedroia. “[I was] very surprised. I was surprised by everything. Obviously, when Mikey [Lowell], [Jason Varitek] and [Tim Wakefield], when they had their [retirement ceremonies], I’m zoned in, but I was also concentrating on getting ready for the game, so I didn’t pay full attention. But this was special -- the whole night. It couldn’t have gone any better."

If not for getting spiked where he did in the left knee by Manny Machado on April 21, 2017, Pedroia likely would have been playing second base for the Red Sox on Friday night instead of getting feted.

And he likely would have been headed for that Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. once his playing career ended. But that’s probably not going to happen now, as injuries shortened his career to the point where he finished with 1,805 hits -- way fewer than he was originally on pace for.

“Obviously, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to,” Pedroia told the fans during his speech. “Kind of one play derailed what was going to be something really special.”

In his post-ceremony session with reporters in the back of the press box, Pedroia expanded on just how hard it was to have the game he loved so much taken away from him before he expected.

“I had one of my best years in 2016. I was going to do it again the next year, and bam,” said Pedroia. “My mind never got off of, ‘You’re still at the top of your game.’ I was going to go for five or six more years. It was the worst type of injury in the worst spot of the knee. Everybody helped me get through it. But it was hard. That’s why I didn’t come around. I couldn’t walk. I didn’t want anyone to see me like that.”

Thanks to a knee replacement, Pedroia was able to walk pain-free at his former home office for the first time in years.

He trotted in from center field to roars from the crowed. Joined by his wife, Kelli, and sons, Dylan, Cole and Brooks, Pedroia lit up when he saw some of his favorite former teammates join in for the ceremony.

Lowell, Wakefield and Jacoby Ellsbury entered together. Many people were surprised to see Ellsbury, who wore a Red Sox jersey for the first time since he left for the Yankees via free agency following the World Series championship season of 2013.

“Me and Ells are tight,” said Pedroia. “He hit in front of me all the time. We had some conversations that were legendary. We kind of came up together, pushed each other. He meant a lot to me. His family does, too. He’s a great guy. All the guys that came back, Mikey, the way he taught me how to be a professional, obviously Alex [Cora], Wake, these are guys who are a part of everything I did. That’s special.”

One teammate who couldn’t be at Fenway was the teammate Pedroia will most often be linked to -- David Ortiz.

Big Papi is in the hospital recovering from a recent surgery, but he left a touching video tribute to Pedroia.

“Just to let you know, if there’s one teammate that I would pick to play the rest of my career with, that would have been you, bro,” said Ortiz. “You bring it every time. Every day. Every day you bring something to the table. When I first started playing baseball, all I heard people talk about was big guys. It’s about heart and you’ve got a big one.

“As a teammate, as a fan, I don’t think you can ask a player for more than what you gave us. You left everything on that field every day. I would say this, if there’s one player I would pay to watch play, it would be you. You know what, dog, you played with no fear. You played with your heart. You know what, you teach the big guys that little guys can look huge on that field and that’s all that matters.”

As it turns out, Pedroia actually visited Ortiz earlier in the day in search of advice.

“I’m like, ‘David, man, I’m nervous. How do I tell the fans and everybody here how much I cared about them for 17 years of my life?’ Because you guys know me. I’m here at noon. This place meant the world to me,” said Pedroia. “And he goes, ‘They already know that.’ So it kind of made me relax. I had to go see him, because it’s been a while. And he calmed me down. The message he said to me -- that’s when I finally knew, all right, I did it right.”

Busy these days being a husband and a father, Pedroia has no imminent plans to return to baseball. But he left no doubt that he will be back in some capacity, and it’s hard to see it being in any uniform but the Red Sox.

“I’ll be in uniform again,” said Pedroia. “I think everyone knows that. It’s just a matter of time. I want to raise my boys and make sure that I don’t miss anything in their life. They deserve that. And then after that, it’s go time.”