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"That was a huge back and forth," Kelli says. "Who wants to miss the All-Star Game? That was a huge honor. But now we have our unborn son, and there are issues. MLB looked into flying him out just for the day, but Obama was throwing out the first pitch and all the airports were shut down."
Kelli went into labor on Aug. 18. Pedroia was in Toronto. He jumped on a plane to Boston, told a cabbie he would pay him as much as he wanted if he drove as fast as he could and made it to the delivery room at Mass General Hospital 20 minutes before Dylan was born.
The boy is perfectly healthy. "It was life-changing, man," Pedroia says. "I really didn't know what to expect, but once he came everything changed. I really don't worry about taking care of myself. He comes first. I think I think that way because my dad was always that way with me, just making sure I was doing the right thing or playing the game the right way or being respectful to people."
That's another way we connect to baseball. No other sport, and few pastimes at that, can so strengthen a bond between father and son. Guy Pedroia, after putting in full days at his tire store, always had time to throw batting practice or hit ground balls to Dustin in Woodlands, Calif. Before Little League games Guy would take Dustin and some teammates to a batting cage—seven bucks for 15 minutes. "We'd go there and rake and then play ball," Dustin says. "Those blue Iron Mike machines and yellow balls. That was cool."
Now the son has a son of his own, and instead of a Woodlands batting cage, they have the run of Fenway Park. Dylan is a version of Dustin in miniature. When Kelli tells him it's time for bed, he will give a dismissive "bye-bye" signal with his hand and carry on. In the clubhouse he will rag players to the point that even Dustin said, "I'm embarrassed for myself now." And, like his father, Dylan has a close if goofy relationship with Uncle Tito.
"If he goes into the clubhouse he gets gum," Kelli says, "and—this is a horrible habit—Tito and Dylan swap gum back and forth. I'm not allowed in there, so what can I do?"
This is the beautiful life of Dustin Pedroia. Family and baseball separated by what he estimates to be 50 feet. "I think I've changed a lot since me and my wife had Dylan," he says. "That's the most important thing, being a dad first. When I come to the field I do all I can do to help us win, and then go home and do all that I can for him."
Yes, Kelli says, "he's changed a lot since we got the little guy." Why, just the other day, she says, the boys pulled up to the Fenway gate at 1:15 in the afternoon, and Dustin left about 30 minutes later after drilling some baseballs off the Monster. "Before Dylan?" she said. "He would be there about 12:30."