Steve Pearce

Steve Pearce

In the span of a year, 2012, he bounced between six major league teams.

Six years later, he was named the World Series MVP.

Driven by a blue-collar work ethic and supported by a loving wife and strong family, Steve Pearce persevered when others might have quit. The perseverance earned him a spot in the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame.

“I used it to put a chip on my shoulder,” Pearce said of 2012. “It was fuel. It was time to see what I was made of.”

Raised in Lakeland, all three of the Pearce brothers were into sports.

“I played Pee Wee football, sure, but baseball was my favorite,” said Pearce. “By the time high school came around, it was the only sport I wanted to play, all the time.”

Playing shortstop for the Dreadnaughts, he hit .400 with 36 RBIs in 2001, his senior year, en route to Lakeland reaching the state tournament.

“I stay in touch with both Ron and Matt Nipper and Chuck Smith – all my high school coaches,” he said. “I make it a point to see them when I come home.”

After graduation, Pearce opted for Indian River Community College, where he led them in batting average both years. Selected for the Major League Draft, he instead opted for the University of South Carolina. He led the team in batting average, home runs and RBIs in both 2004 and 2005. In his first year, he helped lead the Gamecocks to their third consecutive appearance in the College World Series by hitting .346 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs, earning team Rookie of the Year honors as well as the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team and the College World Series All-Tournament Team.

Drafted in 2005 in the eighth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, he’d find himself on a Major League field in two years. It would take another four years, 2011, before he’d win a roster spot out of Spring Training.

Then 2012 struck. Released by the Minnesota Twins after signing with them in the offseason, Pearce would be signed by the New York Yankees, traded to the Baltimore Orioles, claimed off waivers by the Houston Astros, bought from the Astros back to the Yankees, and claimed off waivers by Orioles, on Sept. 29 – just days from the end of the season.

“That was a tough year,” said Pearce. “My wife was pregnant, too. All that shuffling around, it makes you see what you are made of.”

It also made him realize the true driving force behind his career – family.

“My wife, Jessica, is my rock,” he said. “She took care of all those things fans don’t think of, like having to pack up when a player changes teams, or taking care of things when I was on the road. She took care of me so I could concentrate on baseball. And I couldn’t have done it without my parents, they were my number-one fans. I thank them and love them very much.”

Pearce blossomed in Baltimore, hitting .293 with 21 home runs during the 2014 season. It’s also where he found what would be his calling card.

“I fit a niche,” he said. “Jack of all trades. I’m athletic, and I can play anywhere, and I can hit. Most of all, I never complained.”

He’d also spend 2015 with them before signing with the Rays for the 2016 season.

“It was nice being able to grow some roots,” he said. “Less of a whirlwind”

After stints with the Orioles, again, and Blue Jays, he was traded to the Boston Red Sox on June 28, 2018. In three months, he’d find himself the regular first baseball. In four months, he’d find himself MVP of the 2018 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I just rode the wave,” he said. “It was great. Boston is a great baseball town, and we had the city at our back. It was a great situation with a great bunch of guys, and I just fit in.”

It didn’t hurt that Pearce, playing first base, hit .333 on the World Series, with three home runs. He hit two home runs to seal the win in Game 5, joining only Babe Ruth and Ted Kluszewski as the only players age 35 or over to have a multi-home run game in the World Series.

While he may have retired after the 2019 season, Pearce isn’t slowing down. He’s Coach Pearce now, helping out on his 10-year-old daughter Jensen’s softball team. Five-year-old Cruise isn’t quite into organized sports yet.