Even Yankees fans like Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia

Two young boys from New Jersey wearing pinstriped Yankees

jerseys spotted Dustin Pedroia chatting with Reggie Jackson near

the foul line and couldn’t resist asking for an autograph.

Not from Mr. October. Rather, they wanted Pedroia to sign.

”Mr. Pedroia! Mr. Pedroia!” the brothers shouted, hoping to

get his attention.

It worked.

Pedroia finished his conversation with Jackson, a fellow Arizona

State alum, and walked over to fans gathered in the box seats

section. The former AL MVP signed for several minutes, delighting

the crowd of Yankees fans.

Yes, Yankees fans.

It was strange to see these fans, many of whom were visiting

from the New York area, clamoring for a player on the hated Red Sox

instead of shouting obscenities at him.

More so, it was odd to see Jackson giving advice to someone who

plays for New York’s biggest rival, even if they went to the same


Imagine what The Boss would’ve said. George Steinbrenner may

have fired Jackson from his guest instructor duties on the spot if

he witnessed the Hall of Famer being so chummy with anyone in a

Boston uniform.

”I was asking if he was coming to the alumni game,” Pedroia

said with a grin.

The little guy with the big bat is one of the most popular

players in the majors, as evidenced by the fact he even appeals to

Yankees fans.

”I think it’s great,” Pedroia said. ”If you are a Red Sox fan

or a Yankees fan, if you play the game the right way, there’s

mutual respect. Don’t get me wrong, you want to beat them because

you are competitive, but the respect level for those guys is

through the roof.”

On a team that features a slew of talented players, including

Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury and

Carl Crawford, Pedroia is the heart and soul in the clubhouse. Now

that longtime captain Jason Varitek has retired, Pedroia probably

deserves to wear the ”C” on his uniform more than anyone.

The hard-nosed, gritty second baseman plays with an edge that

motivates teammates and inspires the littlest of little leaguers to

try their hardest. At 5-foot-9 and barely 180 pounds, Pedroia

doesn’t compare to the jacked-up superstars in size. He makes up

for it in production.

Pedroia batted .307 and had career-highs in homers (21), RBIs

(91) and stolen bases (26) last season. But all he remembers is the

bitter disappointment at the end. The Red Sox went 7-20 in

September, blew a nine-game lead and lost the AL wild-card spot to

the Tampa Bay Rays on the last day of the regular season.

”I’ve never been on a team that went 7-20,” he said. ”I’ve

won every year of my life. I was embarrassed. I hope a lot of the

guys were, too. We can turn it around and have a great


The collapse led to major changes in Boston, starting at the

top. Gone are general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry

Francona, who both led the Red Sox to World Series titles in 2004

and 2007. Closer Jonathan Papelbon left in free agency, signing

with the Phillies. Tim Wakefield, J.D. Drew and Marco Scutaro are

among the other players who didn’t return.

Pedroia isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, though. He’s signed

through 2014 with a club option for 2015. Even after having his

best-all around season, Pedroia strives to get better.

But what can he improve on?

”Everything, trying to get better every day whether it’s

offensively, defensively or running the bases or being a leader,”

Pedroia said. ”Work harder on every aspect and hopefully it

transitions to the game and the season.”

Pedroia is a team player, of course. He didn’t flinch when new

manager Bobby Valentine flip-flopped him with Ellsbury at the top

of the order. Pedroia usually bats second, but he’s comfortable

hitting leadoff if needed. He’s only a career .253 hitter in 76

games in that spot, but he’ll do whatever it takes to win. On 29

occasions, Pedroia has even batted cleanup, a spot reserved for the

real sluggers. Maybe he should stay there. He has a .397 average

with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 121 at-bats in the No. 4 hole.

”I’ll hit wherever I hit,” Pedroia said confidently. ”I don’t


Against St. Louis on Thursday, Pedroia batted third and Youkilis

led off. Valentine, though, said he just wanted to get Youkilis

quick at-bats.

Pedroia, a second-round pick in 2004, was the AL Rookie of the

Year in `07. Then he joined Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard as the

only players in baseball history to follow a rookie award with an

MVP in `08. Pedroia led the AL with 213 hits, 118 runs and 54

doubles while batting .326 with 17 home runs, 83 RBIs and 20 stolen

bases. That earned him a $40.5 million, six-year contract after the


Pedroia has been to the All-Star game three times and has two

Gold Glove Awards to go along with his other hardware. Team

accomplishments mean more to him, so he’s hoping for another World

Series ring on his hand.

”I’m just trying to come out and help us win,” he said. ”I’m

trying to get better every day and play the game the right way and

that’s about it.”