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MLB 09: Pedroia steals 'The Show'

Dustin Pedroia is not answering his phone.

His agent is leaving him messages, PR people are trying to track him down, but no matter how many times we call, all we get is voice mail.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting in my office staring at the receiver wishing I could play Jedi mind tricks through AT&T's lines. "You will pick up the phone … these are not the droids you're looking for."

I'm willing Dustin to pick up so I can make my deadline, but I eventually give up and head off to dream of mind tricks, droids and a better way to contact athletes for interviews.

A day goes by and I get an apology that leaves me wondering if I'm still dreaming.

"Sorry, but Dustin was meeting with the president yesterday. He has time to talk today."

"Wait, the Red Sox president or the president president?" I ask when I finally get Pedroia on the phone.

"The president president," he laughs. "He invited my wife and I over to the White House for dinner along with six other players. It was a great time. He's just a normal guy like me or you. It was cool."

Now that's what being MVP is all about.

Not like Marco Scutaro spends his offseason hanging out with the most powerful man on the planet.

But there's more to Pedroia's story than talking hardball with the president. He's also only the third player in major league history to be named MVP the season after winning rookie of the year (Cal Ripken Jr. and Ryan Howard are the other two, for those keeping score).

And that's not the only thing Pedroia has in common with Howard. Turns out last year the Philly slugger graced the cover of Sony's MLB 08 video game, and this year it's Pedroia's turn, as the Sox second baseman has just signed to appear on the cover of MLB 09: The Show for PlayStation 3, PSP and PlayStation 2.

"Obviously, I don't play baseball to be on the cover of a video game, but it's an unbelievable honor to be on there," Pedroia says. "When I was a kid, I would walk into a store and if I liked the player on the cover, I would try to buy that game. That's how kids think. The game symbolizes what that player on the box is all about."

And appearing on that box is also Pedroia's biggest endorsement deal to date. "I've had some signing deals, but this is the one that's just so fun. I can't wait to walk into a store and see a game with me on the cover. If you know me, you'll know that I'm just a normal guy who shows up to work and plays as hard as I can. Hopefully young kids will play this game and try to take something from me about what it means to work hard and achieve your dreams."

Here's what else Pedroia had to say as we talked video games, the Yankees and short jokes:


ESPN: MLB 09's big feature is that fans can use a peripheral like the Rock Band mike and record their own crowd chants. You can scream things about my mom, yell, "Pedroia sucks!" then cue the audio when that player comes up to bat. What's the funniest thing anyone ever yelled at you during a game that I can try to mimic on the PS3?

Dustin Pedroia: I really don't get it that bad, other than all the short jokes. But I guarantee that all the Red Sox fans are going to get a big kick out of this as it's a new way to razz Yankee players. I'm sure it's going to be a big hit in the New England area.

ESPN: What's a good short joke?

Dustin Pedroia: The best one I heard was at Yankee Stadium. We were playing the shift on Giambi and someone was yelling, "The grass is taller than you, Pedroia!" I was like Jeez, man.

ESPN: Another thing the game really nails is the routine every hitter has at the plate. What's the one routine you have that you couldn't stop even if you tried?

Dustin Pedroia: After every pitch I step out of the box and tighten my batting gloves, then I step back up to the plate and I'm ready to go. I don't have very big hands, so I'm constantly tightening my batting gloves. I don't even notice that I'm doing it anymore. You go to the plate so many times, and you do the same thing over and over and over, that I don't even know I'm doing it until I see the video. I literally do it every pitch. It's weird.

ESPN: Are you a big gamer?

Dustin Pedroia: I play a lot of Rock Band, but all my friends, they play a lot of the baseball game. And I'll be honest, when I played them last year, they really put a whooping on me. I'm not very good. The slow curveball followed by a high fastball just messes me up every time.

But I actually have a video game room where we play. I have a big TV with a PlayStation 3, a PlayStation 2 and a Wii. They're all hooked up, so whatever button I press, the system turns on and we're ready to play.

ESPN: So what's better: Playing the drums in Rock Band or getting a hit as yourself in the game?

Dustin Pedroia: I'm getting pretty good on the drums, but we'll see.

ESPN: How has your character been portrayed in the various video games so far? Is his rating high enough?

Dustin Pedroia: I was OK last year … not very good. I wasn't too strong, not too strong of a hitter. I played good defense, but hopefully my hitting will get better this year. I'm not looking for it to be unrealistic. I'm not a guy who should hit 40 home runs in the game or anything like that. I'm the guy who hits doubles, steals bases and plays good defense. I'm an exciting player, and hopefully this year you'll see that from me in the video game as well.

ESPN: When I'm playing as you in the game, what's the toughest ball for you to try and field?

Dustin Pedroia: A push bunt where the batter pushes it past the pitcher and I have to bare-hand it and flip it to first base. That's an extremely tough play, but it's also something that can change the momentum of the game. If you have a guy trying to reach base, and obviously if he's bunting he's a fast guy, so if I can make the play, it takes all of the momentum away because I just threw out their fast guy. Now he won't be able to try and steal a base or get in scoring position.

ESPN: When you were a kid playing the various baseball video games, who was your favorite player to be?

Dustin Pedroia: I was a Giants fan, so I always wanted to be Barry Bonds. I know it's a little different, me saying that and being a small second baseman, but I always wanted to be Bonds and try to hit long bombs like he did. Hopefully some kids out there this year pick the Red Sox and will want to play as me. It's funny, I remember when I was really little, one of the games we used to play a lot was Baseball Stars on Nintendo, and to compare those old games to what you see now, it's almost like you're playing in the major leagues. It's amazing how technology has evolved.

ESPN: MLB 09 features a mode called Road to the Show where I create my own character, head to the minors and basically try to become an MVP one day like you. What was your personal road to the show like?

Dustin Pedroia: I got drafted in 2004 and was called up in 2006, so I guess it was pretty fast, but I never thought about it that way. I was just so excited that I was getting a chance to play professional baseball. I was actually getting paid to play a game that I love. I kept playing well, and as I kept playing well I kept moving up the ladder, and when I moved up the ladder, that just meant that I needed to work double as hard to stay up there and be successful. I think you put blinders on, or at least I did. I didn't really know what was going on other than, OK, today we have a game, that means I need to go out there and play as hard as I can. That's been my mentality ever since I signed professionally.

But I remember some pretty funny moments from back in the minors as I was working my way up. They used to have this character who would run up to the first base coach, eat him, then spit him out. It was kind of a circus at times, but it's pretty fun, and you need that laughter because there are so many games and the travel isn't very great. At least in the video game you don't have to travel on a bus.

ESPN: They even have player personalities in the game, and as you play through your franchise, you'll need to juggle all of the various personalities on your team in order to be successful. What do you think is the most important thing to building team chemistry?

Dustin Pedroia: Winning. Winning is the biggest thing. If you win, everything is fine. If you're not winning, you always seem to have an issue somewhere. Winning is the best cure for team chemistry.

ESPN: So if I'm playing as the Red Sox, how do I win it all this year?

Dustin Pedroia: If you're the Red Sox, we have great pitching, we have great defense and we always have the big sluggers. You have a good bet that you'll get into the playoffs, and once you're there, you have a bunch of guys who will step up in clutch situations and help you win it all.

ESPN: So if I challenge you to a game right now and I choose the Yankees, are you going to bean any of my batters?

Dustin Pedroia: [laughs] No, man, not at all. It's a friendly rivalry.