Nov. 6, 2017
By Brad Muller | More Features
Photos by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox
Jackie Bradley, Jr. was always a cool customer. Whether it was coming up with a big hit late in a game with two strikes at the College World Series or making highlight reel catches to become a Major League Baseball All-Star with the Boston Red Sox, Bradley always keeps things in perspective, even if that means not watching the World Series.
“I actually have not been watching it at all,” Bradley said last week. “Once my season ended it was just time to enjoy the family and do other things I enjoy besides baseball. So, I’ve been watching a lot of Moana and Frozen with a [17-month-old] daughter in the family.”
Now 27 years old, Bradley will forever be remembered in Gamecock Baseball lore for his role in South Carolina’s back-to-back College World Series championships in 2010 and 2011 as he was voted the Most Outstanding Player in the Gamecocks’ first national championship. He was a supplemental first round pick of the Red Sox in the 2011 amateur draft and was called up to the Major League club for the first time two years later. In 2016, he was selected to the MLB All-Star game, but he’s not worried about statistics. He just wants to win.
“I just want to continue to work hard in the gym, get stronger, be quicker, and also make sure I’m conditioned for the long season,” Bradley said. “I’m just going to try to stay healthy and be a great teammate.”
In a Boston outfield that is full of stars including Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi, Bradley has made a name for himself as one of Major League Baseball’s best defensive centerfielders and helped the Red Sox win the American League East this year before falling in the playoffs to the Houston Astros. Surprisingly, Bradley was not one of the three finalists for the Golden Glove Award for his position, but he’s still humble.
“We have a lot of really great outfielders in our league,” Bradley said. “I definitely respect every single person. I’m a competitor. It’s one of those things where the only thing you can do about it is continue to work hard, move forward and come out next year ready to play again.”
Many of the hitters Bradley has robbed of home runs or thrown out on the base paths will attest to his prowess with the glove and arm as evidenced by comments made from teammates during the game or Tweets to him afterward.
“Who I hear from immediately is our pitchers,” Bradley laughed. “They appreciate it and the team appreciates it. It can be a momentum shifter. Aaron Judge (New York Yankees) and Ryon Healy (Oakland A’s), I’ve robbed one [home run] from them, and I robbed one from Chris Davis (Baltimore Orioles) this year as well. I was able to talk to them afterwards. Aaron Judge has robbed me [of a hit], too. So, I said 'I’ve got to get you back.' You try to have fun with it.
“I don’t really put those plays in numerical order, but I definitely remember all of them. I just do it. I don’t think about it anymore. I guess most people will talk about the Aaron Judge one the most just because of the situation of the game, who we were playing, and it being Sunday Night Baseball [on ESPN].”
Speaking of Boston’s biggest rival, the New York Yankees, Bradley is well-versed in what it means to be part of a great baseball rivalry after many memorable games with the Clemson Tigers during his career.
“I definitely enjoy it,” Bradley said. “I think the fans definitely enjoy it on both sides because we’re both very competitive, and we’re usually the two teams that are atop the A.L. East. I know a few guys that are over there [New York] and I respect them highly and communicate with them, and they with us. We definitely respect each other in what we have to go through on a daily basis, but we also want to win. We want to beat them just as bad as they want to beat us.
“The South Carolina and Clemson rivalry was such a great rivalry for me in college. I actually believe it could compare [to Yankees/Red Sox]. It’s just on a different scale.”
I just really enjoyed everything about college; teachers that influenced my life, friends that I met and developed relationships with, and the coaches.
Appropriately, his MLB debut came in 2013, when he opened the season as the starting left fielder at Yankee Stadium. Bradley isn’t content with past accomplishments and continues to work on all phases of his game, acknowledging how quickly a Major Leaguer can be humbled at the plate and noting how glad he is that the toughest pitcher he’s faced, Chris Sale, formerly of the Chicago White Sox, was a teammate in Boston this season.
“Chris Sale, whew!” Bradley exclaimed. “First of all, he’s 6’6”. He’s tall, has long arms and has a very unorthodox delivery. Plus, he throws upper 90s with a slider, and he throws sidearm. He can throw any pitch for a strike, and he’s not afraid to pitch inside. That’s the key.”
For now, Bradley is happy to be home every day and enjoying life with his wife, Erin, and their young daughter, Emerson.
“Just watching her grow and learn on a daily basis; she surprises me every single day in how fast she is able to grasp things,” Bradley said. “I know she knows what she’s doing, too, because she will look at you before she does certain things. It’s so fun.”
While his daughter may not have yet mastered the Red Sox outfielder’s traditional “Win, Dance, Repeat” antics after a victory, he’s OK with that.
“All she knows right now is daddy and [Red Sox mascot] Wally,” Bradley said. “That’s how she associates things with baseball.”
Bradley noted that he stays in touch with his former college coach and current South Carolina Athletics Director Ray Tanner on a regular basis, and he’s thankful for his time wearing the Garnet and Black.
“We enjoy each other,” Bradley said. “I just really enjoyed everything about college; teachers that influenced my life, friends that I met and developed relationships with, and the coaches. That all played a role that made my time in college so special. I got to do a lot of things that I might not have done had I not gone to college. Those are things I’ll always cherish.”
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