Few people had a bigger impact on Dustin Pedroia's career than Terry Francona.
Francona was the Red Sox manager when Pedroia made his major league debut in August of 2006, and the two would grow to be close. The trash talk between the two was legendary and watching them hurl insults at one another was like watching a vaudeville act in its prime.
Behind all the playfulness, however, there was a true fondness for one another.
Still, Francona wasn't always a believer. As the former Red Sox manager told BostonSportsJournal.com in the hours after Pedroia's retirement announcement, he needed time before being convinced.
Pedroia may have been an All-American at Arizona State and a second-round pick. But what Francona saw was a 5-foot-7 runt swinging with such ferocity that he risked screwing himself into the ground.
"The front office guys had warned me that he would probably start slow,'' said Francona from his Arizona home, "because of his stature or build, I think they were worried that we might not give him a chance. And I promised those guys that I would. And that's a good thing.''
In 31 games in 2006, Pedroia compiled a slash line of .191/258/.303, all the while swinging at every pitch with such force that it seemed like he would dislocate a shoulder.
The next year, 2007, didn't start much better. At the end of an early May homestand, Francona benched Pedroia for the final game at Fenway and told him he would sit in the first game of a road trip to begin in Minnesota.
At the time, Pedroia was batting just .180 with just three extra-base hits (all doubles) in 22 games.