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Book Review: “Born to Play: My Life in the Game” by Dustin Pedroia (with Edward J. Delaney)

Born to Play: My Life in the Game

Dustin Pedroia is the Red Sox All-Star 2nd baseman, who was named the A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2007, in which the team won the World Series. He then followed up that impressive season by winning the A.L. MVP award in 2008. In his first two years of playing professional ball, Pedroia won almost every offensive and defensive award possible, and even won a World Series.

After just two years in the big leagues, Pedroia decided to let his story be known to the masses. His memoir is an account of how he grew up loving the game of baseball and how he worked hard at every level to make it to the pros.

The book starts off innocently enough. Pedroia grew up in California and was a die hard San Francisco Giants fan as a kid. His mother and father owned and worked in a tire shop and Dustin’s older brother also played baseball.

As a kid, Pedroia played little league and was coached by his father. Growing up, we learn that Pedroia battled through numerous injuries, including fracturing his shoulder playing little league and breaking his leg playing football in high school. While in college, Pedroia played on Team USA in an international tournament in the Netherlands. There, he took a ground ball to the face, fracturing his eye socket. It was the closest Pedroia came to having a career-ending injury and never playing again.

Therein lies my biggest problem with the book. The book description and inside flap describes how Pedroia had to overcome adversity being such a small guy. It went as far as to call itself an “inspirational story”

“The inspirational story of Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia – a giant talent in a small package – who defied his critics with hard work, relentless determination, and a looks-can-be-deceiving attitude to become one of the greatest players in the game today.”

Aside from being undersized (5’7″, 170 lbs), Pedroia’s story is hardly inspirational. As a kid, he wanted to play baseball, so he did. He wanted to play Varsity baseball in high school, so he did. He wanted to go to Arizona State on a full scholarship, and he got it. He wanted to make it to the majors one day, and he did.

Seriously, the guy never faced a major roadblock in his career at any time. The eye injury sidelined him for six weeks after his surgery, and then he started playing again. Granted, I am not taking away his work ethic and his heart, but the book is just one fluent, linear story from point A to point B of how Pedroia progressed through playing baseball.

The story may cover his love for the game from childhood to the present, but the reader never really has the chance to root for Pedroia. Thanks to his hard work, Pedroia is where he is today, but his obstacles to get there were far and very few between. Aside from a couple of injuries, Pedroia’s path to the majors has been without any bumps, and that is where it makes it hard to cheer for the guy.

The whole appeal to the book is that Pedroia was a small guy with big dreams and an even bigger heart. So I expected a book of overcoming adversity. The fact that he is a small guy was addressed at several points, but it never prevented him from being given fair and equal opportunities at any level of playing ball. Nobody ever told him “we don’t want you because you are too small”, he was always given a chance. If you want the inspirational story of a guy who was always told he was too small to make it and had to put himself through hell to support his dream, then go watch “Rudy”. This book is not the inspirational tale that we were led to believe.

On the positive side, the story does not drag on. Like I said, it is linear, so that does make it flow smoothly and makes it a quick read. It was actually nice to read about how our second baseman traveled all the way through the Sox minor league system and struggled in his first month of the majors. He never let his early struggles get him down, as he had the support of family, teammates, and Sox ownership.

Between each chapter, we get commentary on Pedroia’s career at every level from former and current coaches and teammates. It is usually just a small, 2-3 page blurb, but it’s nice to have outside perspectives on Pedroia’s career.

The book strictly sticks to just his baseball career, and we are given little information about life outside of baseball. We learn briefly about his parents at the start of the book, and the book skims over how he met his current wife. A little more personal stuff would have given the book some depth. Then again, he is still a young guy and only had two years of pro baseball to write about.

In Conclusion

I’m sorry, but the book was unnecessary. Dustin Pedroia had only played two years of pro ball before writing this book, and while he accomplished a great deal in that time, it is still not enough to make a compelling story.

Again, I respect Dustin Pedroia for having a hard-nosed work ethic and being able to play in a large market like Boston. He trains all year round to be in the best shape possible and to have his skills at their peak when the season starts.

Maybe in 10 years or so, he will have some more interesting topics to write about. Whether it could be trouble with management, contract talks, being traded, getting old and having declining skills, trying to keep up with younger kids who are gunning for his position, or ANYTHING else.

The book was a quick read, It clocks in at 261 pages, but the print is larger that most books. I was able to tear through it in three days. It is just a piece of fluff that did not need to be written. Even as a Red Sox fan, I do not recommend it. Just go to Baseball Reference and look at his stats, that is basically what you get from the book.

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2 comments for “Book Review: “Born to Play: My Life in the Game” by Dustin Pedroia (with Edward J. Delaney)”

  1. Book Review: “Born to Play: My Life in the Game” by Dustin Pedroia (with Edward J. Delaney): Dustin Pedroia is …

    Posted by Sports of Boston | November 29, 2009, 1:07 pm
  2. Dodgers 7th round draft pick 2009 is subject of a book also titled “Born to Play” the Brandon Martinez story.

    Posted by Robert Martinez | January 12, 2010, 5:20 pm

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