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A story about Dustin Pedroia and the effort to change the Red Sox culture

Red Sox [1] players, staff members and officials marvel at Dustin Pedroia [2]‘s energy, describing him as a force of nature unlike any other and one of the great leaders in the game. But what does that mean?

On Friday night, at the annual Hot Stove Cool Music baseball roundtable (raising money for the Foundation To Be Named Later), the conversation centered around the importance and challenge of changing a clubhouse culture. Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen offered an anecdote about Pedroia that illuminated his leadership and the values the team hopes to embody going forward. He referenced the final roadtrip of the season, at a time when the distance between the Sox and the Orioles exceeded that between the sun and Neptune.

Here was Hazen’s story:

“I had the pleasure of being in Baltimore at the end of the season, that last road trip. We’€™re standing in the dugout, talking, Adam Jones [3] is going to run up during batting practice to field his position. Pedroia just starts screaming at him.

“‘€˜Don’€™t hit the ball my way tonight. I’€™m telling you right now, you better plan on pulling that thing because if you hit it my way, you’€™re out. You are out.’€™

Adam Jones [4] is running out to his position, looking around, like, ‘€˜What? That guy’€™s crazy. What’€™s wrong with him?’€™ He didn’€™t respond.

“I looked at him and said, ‘€˜Hey Pedey ‘€“ we’€™ve lost 89 games and these guys are about to go to the playoffs.’€™ Then he turned on me and started screaming at me. ‘€˜I don’€™t care how many games we’€™ve lost! I don’€™t care ‘€“ that guy’€™s out!’€™

“After that, I said, ‘€˜All right. All right.’€™ I walked away.

“The further evidence of that was where he goes into that last series in New York. He has a broken finger. But he’€™s going out there to play because he knew that it meant something ‘€“ not for the Red Sox, but obviously for [the Orioles and Buck Showalter [5], who was also on the panel for the roundtable].

“That’€™s what he stood for. That’€™s sincerity. That’€™s authenticity. Those are the things we value so much. He knew, for the game, too, how much those games meant. We were playing with a short roster, as Buck can tell you from watching some of those games, and they were beating us up pretty good. He was going out there because he knew it mattered.

“That’€™s another example of the things we’€™re talking about, why it’€™s so important. That’€™s going to carry over this year, for us, I think. That’€™s going to carry over. His teammates saw that. Those that are still here, those that are coming in, they heard the story.

“He went out there when the games meant nothing, just because it meant something to the game.”