Sports

Palo Alto's Pederson has time to enjoy a birthday at home

 

Palo Alto grad Joc Pederson was able to spend his birthday with his family for the first time since high school when he came to San Francisco with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday to open a three-game series with the Giants.

Pederson, who turned 23, spent most of Monday having "good family conversation." His grandfather, long-time Palo Alto sports coach Bob Pederson, passed away recently, would have been a part of that conversation.

It's a close-knit family and Bob was a major fan of all things Champ, Joc, Tyger and Jacey.

"It was a tough loss," Pederson said. "He was my basketball coach growing up. It's sad and I will miss him."

His grandfather watched him at every stop in the minor leagues, from the Arizona Fall League on up.

"Everywhere I went, he was always there watching me play," Pederson said. "Now he gets to watch me every day."

Several members of the Pederson family were on the field to watch the Dodgers take batting practice, one of the best presents he could enjoy on his birthday.

"It adds a level of excitement because this is where I grew up," Pederson said. "It's exciting to see family and friends who are happy for me. I grew up watching Barry Bonds here. This is the place where I came to watch major league baseball."

(Barry Bonds was in attendance Tuesday night, watching Pederson, who was 1 for 2 with a pair of walks during a 6-2 loss to the Giants).

He had a multitude of ticket requests, the exact number Pederson could not recall. He does stay in touch with teachers and friends and has been known to show up at the school to say hello.

His sister, Jacey, is a junior at Paly and an excellent soccer player.

"With all the video available, my mom is able to send me things from her games," Pederson said. "I see a highlight or two. She's pretty good. I'm happy for her that she is able to play a sport she loves."

Pederson, who was a September call-up last year, made his first opening day roster and brought a .289 batting average into Tuesday's contest. He ranks among National League leaders in walks (12, fourth) and on-base percentage (.438, ninth). After Tuesday night, Pederson is batting .300 with 12 hits in 40 at-bats.

"Any experience you get is priceless," he said. "I got my feet wet last year and was able build off that. I'm learning a lot and am fortunate enough to be around some of the best hitters in the game. I learn from them and watch how they go about business."

He recorded a career-high three hits against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 12, which included his first major-league home run and RBI.

"He's talented," Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez said of Pederson during spring training. "He doesn't have any physical limitations -- he hits the ball hard and has a great eye at the plate. He's fast enough to steal bases and plays great defense."

Pederson was prompted to the big leagues following his historic season with Triple-A Albuquerque last year in which he became the fourth player to steal 30 bases and hit 30 home runs in the same season, and the first in over 50 years. He earned MVP honors and was a Triple-A all-star.

"I think you're always learning," Pederson said. "You're constantly adjusting. It's different every day and you have to keep improving."

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