He was the biggest-boned kid in the 16-member Pedroia clan. At age 14, Rudy was downright husky as Pedroias went, graced with good looks and a sturdy physical stature freshly bestowed upon him by puberty. But in the harsh glare of the stadium klieg lights, he weighed only 87 pounds fully dressed in pads and gear, and a California health insurance agent triumphantly emerged as the family’s hero.
Bakersfield’s Rudy Pedroia was a born athlete. At age ten, his father, Randy, first spied his son’s potential. When the kid pranced barefoot in the summer heat, “My boy has an athlete’s foot,” he casually remarked.
Rudy practiced. He knew every play. Fleet of athlete’s foot, the day came when he made the varsity squad. A freshman, the Pedroia’s little star sat on the bench on that fateful night. His wise parents had purchased a child’s individual plan for their son, just in case. Rudy was third-string; at four feet five and 87 pounds, no one beyond the Pedroia clan figured that Rudy would actually play. Still, the entire family watched as they always did. Randy was proud. “He has athlete’s feet!” he would brag to anyone within earshot while attracting looks of mild disdain. Finally Rudy’s big moment came. The home team’s first-string tackle broke an ankle and was carried off the field on a stretcher. The second-string tackle got clotheslined in the groin and nearly lost his tackle. When that unconscious 200-pounder was carted off, the coach looked at the bench and saw … “You!” he barked, “Get in there!” The crowd uttered a collective gasp. “He’s so shrimpy!” somebody’s grandmother screeched. But Rudy knew the plays.
It didn’t really matter. While attempting to trip up the touchdown sprint of a monstrous fullback, Rudy’s outstretched toes served as a launching pad for the opposing team’s end zone. The sound of a Pedroia metatarsal crunching could be heard at the fifty-yard line.
Gathered around Rudy’s bed in his semi-private room where all three of Bakersfield High’s wounded players were hospitalized, only Rudy’s family was smiling. “What?” Randy Pedroia said, “My son has athlete’s feet!” Since they had purchased a teenager’s plan from a California Health Insurance agent, they could afford to smile.
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