The common denominator of every major league player is strong hands, and in most cases, big, strong hands. "I grew up on a farm," said Duane Kuiper, a former major league second baseman, now a broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants. "The only thing on my body that is strong are my hands. They're the reason I was able to play in the big leagues."
The New York Yankees' Matt Holliday is strong everywhere, but his hands might be the biggest and strongest in the game. Mike Piazza is in the Hall of Fame in part because of his strong hands. "When he came to us [the Padres, in 2006]," former San Diego manager Bruce Bochy said, "we have all our players do a hand-strength test. Mike broke the club record for the strongest hands. It was unbelievable. It was like Herman Munster had joined our team."
"He has the smallest hands I've ever seen on a major league player," said Cleveland Indians manager Tito Francona, who managed Pedroia in Boston. Chicago Cubs general manager Theo Epstein agreed, saying Pedroia's hands are like a child's hands.
But like Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, who had tiny hands, small hands haven't hurt Pedroia, because while they might be small, they're strong.
Have you always had small hands?
Pedroia: Yes, but I've always hand great hand-eye coordination. Even as a kid, I was always able to make solid contact. The strength in my hands started to come when I was in high school. But it wasn't until my sophomore year in college that I could really feel the strength in my hands. I was constantly doing hand-strengthening exercises and exercises for my forearms.
What player's hand did you shake and were stunned by the size of his hands?
Pedroia: The first time I met Robinson Cano about 10 years ago, I went, "Oh, my God, I can't believe how big his hands are." It was like he had a catcher's mitt for hands. And he plays the same position that I do! Then you watch him hit, and you see how strong his hands are.
Do small hands affect the way you hold a bat?
Pedroia: No, because I hold the bat in my fingertips, as most hitters do. I don't have it lying in my palm. So, it's actually a benefit, I think, to have small hands on the bat. But I am always working to keep my hands strong. We hold [weight] plates and stick our hands in rice barrels to develop strength. Swinging a bat every day is the best way to keep your hands strong.
"Hey, I'm a little guy, I'm not supposed to have big hands. It would be weird if I did. It's not like in the circus like, 'Hey, come over and see the little guy with the really big hands.'" Dustin Pedroia
Tony Gwynn, in his final few seasons, used a tiny bat -- 32-inch, 30-ounces -- partly because of his small hands, and because he liked the control of the bat. Do you use an especially small bat?
Pedroia: I use a smaller bat anyway, but it's not because I have small hands. I use a 33½ [inch], 31 [ounce] bat. I could swing a bigger bat, but I like the control I have with a smaller bat.
Do you use a smaller glove than most second basemen?
Pedroia: I use a standard-size glove for a second baseman; I don't use anything smaller because of my hands. I don't have any problem gripping a ball and throwing. That's never been an issue.
Has a teammate or opponent ever told you how small your hands are?
Pedroia: Not really. Hey, I'm a little guy, I'm not supposed to have big hands. It would be weird if I did. It's not like in the circus like, "Hey, come over and see the little guy with the really big hands."