By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — It was not easy for Dustin Pedroia to walk away from the game that he has loved, a game that he has played his entire life. But retiring from baseball was also not a very hard decision to come to for the 37-year-old.READ MORE: 'It's Like An Assault.' Bar Made Famous By 'Perfect Storm' Asks For Return Of Stolen Photo Album
Still, his emotions were evident Monday afternoon as he spoke to reporters after announcing his retirement earlier in the day. Retirement was the only option for Pedroia, who revealed that he underwent a partial knee replacement in December. It’s the culmination of a three-year battle with a bad knee, the aftermath of an injury he suffered at second base when Baltimore’s Manny Machado slid into him during the 2017 season. No one has ever played baseball after undergoing that surgery.
Pedroia sure as hell tried to make a comeback over the last few years, because that is who Dustin Pedroia is. He’ll be remembered as a fierce competitor on the diamond, someone who isn’t going to be deterred just because someone has told him he can’t do something. That is just who he is.
But this time around, it was his body telling him that he could go no more. He could barely get up in the morning without feeling pain in his knee. Even standing around and watching his kids played ball would mean a night of rest and ice.
There was very little remorse as Pedroia talked about his amazing career with the Red Sox, one that included over 1,800 hits from The Laser Show over 14 seasons (and 17 years overall) with the Red Sox. He always left it all out on the field, and always had a “win or go home” attitude in the clubhouse. For that, he will go down as one of the greats to don a Boston uniform.
“I woke up every day trying to find a way to win a baseball game, and I did it in front of the best fans in the best city,” he said Monday. “I wish I enjoyed it more back then, I was so focused on winning. I have no regrets about anything. I never took a play off from Little League.
“Wearing that uniform is the best,” he said. “At some point you can’t play anymore and this is the time, but being in that environment, I was lucky.”
From his Major League debut in 2006 to his attempted comeback in 2019, Pedroia was part of a culture in Boston that was focused on one thing: Winning a championship. And he always played well beyond his 5-foot-7 stature, a giant in his own right during an incredible run by the Red Sox.
“I’m most proud of the environment and culture that we all helped build there, and the expectations. I know the fanbase demands a lot, but as a player, you want to hold each other accountable that the goal each year is to win the World Series,” he explained. “There wasn’t a single season that I showed up to Fort Myers that I didn’t think our team could win the World Series. I’m proud of that. … I’m proud that I was a part of helping build that.”READ MORE: 'A Tragic Case Of Domestic Violence.' Police Investigating Possible Murder-Suicide In Oxford
Pedroia is at peace with the play that ultimately ended his career.
“That play could have happened my rookie year,” he said. “If there’s a slim chance at a double play, there’s one guy on earth who could turn it, and you’re talking to him.”
Of course, he would have loved to have gotten one final chance to step up to bat at Fenway Park and give one final wave — a thank you — to the fans that cheered him on for 17 years.
“I would love to play, love to put the uniform on and play. They were the best fans ever,” he said of the Fenway Faithful. “It would be a Tuesday night and there are 37,000 fans going crazy. I got a chance to do that as long as I did. To do it one more time, I’d do anything to have that opportunity, but I can’t. I can’t run. That part will always hurt me. I wish I had one more time, but I don’t regret anything. It is what it is and I’m OK. Now I have everything I learned, I built up, all the energy I have — I have to give that other people now.”
There were breakdowns along the way leading up to his decision to retire. And there were occasional emotional moments on Monday as well, especially when he was asked how his three young sons took the news. But his kids are now his main focus, and he’s happy that he’ll be able to spend a lot more time — and do a whole lot more — with them.
“I think they were happy their dad will be home all the time. They need me,” he said. “It was hard, but I don’t want them to see me have more surgeries and not be able to walk. I can get my oldest son’s rebounds and stuff like that. I can move, and pass it to him without hurting. I don’t have to ice my knee anymore, and have it not to look like a basketball.
“They’re happy I’m here with them and coaching their teams, trying to help with homework. Some of their stuff is pretty advanced,” he said. “Arizona State, I gotta talk to them about that.”
Pedroia will one day work for the Red Sox, but that will have to wait until his kids are grown up. Until then, he’s got plenty of memories — and a whole lot of stuff — to remind him of his incredible career with the Red Sox.
“I got stuff everywhere. I have a batting cage that looks like Fenway. I’m reminded every day of how special it was to be a Red Sox,” he said. “Once I put my feet on the ground, it’s the first thing that hits my mind. I have a scar from my shin to my quad. I have stuff everywhere; one of Jon Lester’s gloves from 2013, stuff from everyone. Just little things. Stuff from David [Ortiz], [Mike] Napoli, Mike Lowell – which he doesn’t know about. Stuff from everyone and it means the world to me.MORE NEWS: 'Amazing, Absolutely Amazing.' Former NFL Player Living In Provincetown Reacts To Carl Nassib's Coming Out
“I got a chance to play with some special, special people and everyone is still close today. Playing for the Red Sox is family, and it’s family for life,” he said. “It’s special.”