Jackie Bradley Jr. knows there’s more to life than baseball – Boston Herald
Down, then up. Back and forth he goes.
This is the career of Jackie Bradley Jr. since, in 2013, becoming the youngest Red Sox Opening Day outfield starter since Dwight Evans four decades prior.
Maybe he isn’t as good as he is during a hot streak, nor as bad as he is during a slump. To get to know Bradley is to understand that, to him, perspective is everything.
“I never really talk about baseball outside of here,” he said during a lengthy conversation last week, “because I don’t want people to know me as a baseball player. I want people to know me for me, me as a person first.
“You come to our house, baseball is not even brought up. We just catch up. I don’t get to see my family much. So it’s just about what’s going on, what can we possibly do in the future to see each other. Maybe if they want to come to some games. It’s surface level stuff. And if family has problems they want to talk about, we talk about that.”
Family comes first
On the baseball field, Bradley rarely talks about his problems.
Not even when the Red Sox abruptly rushed Bradley to the big leagues to start 2013, before he had any experience above Double A.
“We had fast forwarded his clock and maybe didn’t do the best thing for him,” said bench coach Torey Lovullo. “We did the best thing for this organization, we ended up winning the World Series, and that’s what we were all about when he got his first opportunity.”
Bradley, then 22, went 3-for-31 with 12 strikeouts in 10 games before he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket.
“At the time, I thought I was ready,” Bradley said. “It’s just baseball. You have to make adjustments. Obviously, certain teams aren’t willing to let you go through that for long, which is fine, because certain teams want to contend every single year.”
The next season, playing 127 games with the Red Sox, Bradley hit .198.
“I try to use every season as something to grow off of. People will think I probably grew the most from that season because I did so bad . . . but I went through a lot that year that I didn’t even care to mention,” he said. “My grandmother (Martha Brown) passed away two days after my birthday that year, in April. That’s very early on in the season and she was a huge part of my life.
“I actually had to, on an off day, just sneak down there to be with my family just to support. She was very close to me. When my parents got divorced at a young age, she was there to be able to help us out and get us through some times. We were young when they got divorced, so at that time, all you saw was a lot of hurt. She was living with us to be there for us. She definitely was the top woman in my life at that particular time.”
Bradley largely kept the news from even the Red Sox coaches, noting “they knew, but they didn’t know. I just got a flight and was gone.”
“I’m very independent, I always have been. That’s the way I deal with things,” he said. “I don’t like asking many people for help. I’m the one who likes to figure things out on my own. I feel like I process something and learn it better when I figure it out.
“You can say you’re fine,” he continued. “I was fine physically. Emotionally and mentally, you have to process it. I didn’t have time to grieve. I was to go in, be at my grandmother’s funeral one day, you go back and you’re back in the lineup.”
Paying off on promise
It only made the results sweeter last summer, when Lovullo started penciling Bradley in the Red Sox’ lineup every day.
“Probably around the first week of August last year, he started really hitting the ball with authority, a couple home runs the other way, and you could just see the look on his face was that of relief, that of excitement and he was starting to get back to some of the things we had been hearing about,” Lovullo said. “The player development staff was raving about some of the things we were slowly seeing piece by piece last year.
“The one word that comes up is perseverance — and belief. He knew he was ready for this level, it just took him a little while to show the rest of the world exactly how good he is.”
Bradley has been through two hot streaks since last August, plus two noticeable drop-offs immediately after they ended. Add all the numbers together, though, and Bradley still comes out near the top. Only one player in baseball since last Aug. 9 has a better OPS than Bradley’s .975: David Ortiz (1.123).
“It’s been great to see someone who has been challenged come out the back side and be better off for it,” said manager John Farrell.
Bradley has persevered.
“I don’t think sports shape me as a person at all,” he said. “It never really has.”