Bradley went undrafted and overlooked out of Prince George High School in Virginia, then emerged as a true prospect his freshman year at South Carolina. "It just helped me to stay level-headed and focused," said Bradley. "The difference is you're going about it every single day. You've got to come and strap it on."
Jackie is a take-charge player and person. And he's been like that since he was a kid. His goal is to play every game like it's his last. He focuses on giving his best effort and avoids "over-thinking."
The son of a bus driver, Jackie Bradley Sr., and a former police officer, Alfreda Hagans, Bradley projects confidence, not cockiness; attentiveness, not arrogance.
Bradley's mother holds down two jobs—supervising the maintenance program at a car dealership and running her own custodial service.
His mom and dad are divorced, and he and his brother lived with his mom. But his dad, Jackie Sr., is still very much a part of his life.
In 2012, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Bradley as the 10th-best prospect in the Red Sox organization. They moved him up to #2 in the winter before 2013 spring training. And he was at #3 in the winter before 2014 spring camps opened.
In 2012, the Red Sox named Bradley their minor league defensive player of the year. Also, managers rated him as having the best bat, plate discipline, baserunning skills, outfield defense, and outfield arm in the high Class A Carolina League. Soon, he got a promotion to the Double-A Portland SeaDogs in June.
Jackie plays with a lot of energy. He plays the game the right way.
He is named for soul singer Jackie Wilson and his favorite player is Jackie Robinson. His spare time is spent playing another sport with strikes, bowling.
The story of 2013 camp for the Red Sox was the emergence of Jackie, who landed himself on the big league roster and a start in left field for Opening Day with a tremendous performance in Grapefruit League action.
He was the "Next Great Red Sox Hope" sprung eternal. If there were a Fort Myers Idol competition back in the spring of 2013, the winner would've been Jackie, who created a buzz with his dynamic defense, precocious approach at the plate, and magnetic personality. Everyone from Dustin Pedroia to John Farrell to Hall of Famer Jim Rice liked the kid.
He has "Major League Star" written all over him. But with the Red Sox, he was caught up in a numbers game. In May 2015, Jackie said he understands and accepts his situation because it's in the best interests of the organization.
"I want to be a great teammate and I want to be a player who is known for his winning," he said. "I just strive to play to the best of my abilities. You want to be known as a great teammate, because guys won't remember what you did in the game. They'll remember if you were a great teammate."
If things had gone Bradley’s way his final year at South Carolina, he likely wouldn’t be in Sox camp. His misfortune was Boston’s good fortune.
Bradley injured a tendon in his left wrist while diving for a fly ball against Mississippi State on April 23, 2011. He was in a slump before that, batting .259 in 37 games, struggling to adjust to college baseball’s new composite bats and a steady diet of inside fastballs. He returned in time to win another national title with the Gamecocks. Fittingly, the title-clinching out landed in his glove.
“Everything kind of happens for a reason. I believe in that,” said Bradley. “I’m not blaming anybody or complaining about anything because I still got the opportunity and the chance to play at the next level. That’s what I’m grateful for. I’m just trying to prove that I’m back to the player that I was before the injuries.”
Bradley is a movie buff, so he knows a good story. He said he had seen nearly all of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, except “Life of Pi.” His pick would have been “Lincoln.”
“That was really good,” said Bradley. “Daniel Day-Lewis played the mess out of that movie. I really enjoyed that. Plus, much of the history took place in my hometown.” The script for Bradley’s career is still being written yet. But he looks like a feature attraction.
Spring 2013: Jackie became engaged to Erin Helring.
Bradley maintains a good attitude, even when bouncing up and down from Boston to Pawtucket.
"Ever since I first had him in [Double-A] Portland, every day you know what you're getting," Pawtucket manager Kevin Boles said in 2015. "He's probably the most reliable guy in our clubhouse. The way he goes about his business is terrific. He's always upbeat and positive. I'd love to have him on any club."
December 2015: Bradley was named the "Pro Athlete of the Year" for South Carolina. (MLB.com)
June 2, 2016: Bradley became a first-time father, as his wife, Erin, gave birth to a baby girl, Emerson, in Boston.
Jackie rented a place close to Fenway Park to make things more convenient for his wife, Erin, who was entering the final months of her pregnancy.
Jackie Bradley Sr. spends the early part of his days as a bus operator, and the afternoons mowing lawns or trimming trees, or whatever else he can do to earn some money. In the evening, he sits on a comfortable chair or couch, turns on the TV in his Virginia home and watches Jackie Jr. go to work for the Red Sox. Who exactly is Jackie Bradley Sr.? He is the man who showed his son the value of putting in an honest day's work.
"My dad, in general, he kind of led by example," Bradley Jr. said. "He's a hard worker—a real, real hard worker. He always made sure if something needed to be done, he was going to get it done, no excuses. He just tried to make sure that me, my brother and now my younger sister always stayed on the right path."
That path helped lead Bradley Jr. to a stellar college baseball career at the University of South Carolina, one that included two national championships. "It's a lot of fun," Bradley Sr. said. "I knew Jackie could do what he's doing—it was just a matter of time. To me, I think it was just a mind thing. Jackie just needed an adjustment. It's pretty hard to hit that baseball."
What was never hard to Jackie Bradley Jr. was keeping that "Jr." on his baseball card, not to mention the back of his away Red Sox jersey.
"Absolutely," Bradley Jr. said. "He's Senior, and I'm his son and I'm just trying to go out and honor him. When he was younger, he liked playing baseball a lot, and he obviously played basketball in college. He kind of feels like he's living through me vicariously, because this is what he wanted to do when he was younger, as well."
"I'm Senior. I'm the one that made him," Bradley Sr. said. "It makes me feel proud that your son is out there as Junior."
Just because Bradley Jr.'s father isn't a prominent former baseball player like, say, Ken Griffey Sr., he is amused as to why people are so curious about his reason for keeping Junior on his uniform.
"I've always wanted it there," Bradley Jr. said. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, you don't need Junior,' and I'd say, 'You don't need to focus on my last name.' It's just something I've grown to like. It's like it's a part of me now."
Initially, there was some humor involved. "He always used to tell me, when we lived in the same house, that we wouldn't be able to decipher whose mail belonged to who, without the Senior and Junior," Bradley Jr. said. "My dad used to say, 'I'm not going to go to jail for you and you're not going to jail for me, so make sure you put Junior on your stuff and I'll put Senior on mine and that way there's no confusion.'"
Jackie Bradley Sr. once thought he might play professional sports for a living. He thought basketball was his best way to get there, and he played for Fayetteville State. "When I went to play college basketball, I thought I was going be one of the best basketball players around, because I came out of high school scoring about 20 points a game," Bradley Sr. said. "When I went to college, I realized, you got these other guys just as good as I am."
Bradley Sr. suspected the same would be true for his son when he went to play baseball for South Carolina. However, he was in for a pleasant surprise.
"But when Jackie went to college, he went to a different level," Bradley Sr. said. "We went down there to Spring Training to see him play, and Jackie hit a towering home run. I said, 'Man, this boy is going to be good.' Jackie just took off then."
In hindsight, Bradley Sr. wonders if baseball would have been a better path for him, too. "I played a little baseball, but in my era, everyone wanted to be Dr. J," Bradley Sr. said. "I was pretty good in both, so I decided I would stick to basketball. If I had to do it all over again, I'd probably do baseball." (Ian Browne - MLB.com - June 16, 2016)
- Jackie's road to the Show was slow and tedious. And Red Sox executives took note that Bradley never pouted or sulked while riding the Boston-to-Pawtucket shuttle during multiple demotions to Triple-A.
“These guys have the luxury of taking 48 hours to report when they get sent down, and some of the players do,’’ Sawdaye says. “If you get optioned down at 9:00 a.m., you don’t have to go down to Pawtucket and play that night. But Jackie was always there. Whether he was in the lineup or not, he was always there wanting to play.’’
“Jackie’s an electric player,’’ says Red Sox outfielder Chris Young. “It’s contagious when you have somebody out there busting it like he does on a day-to-day basis. It puts a fire under you and keeps you on your toes. He’s a really confident guy and he’s dedicated to the game. You can tell he wants to be great. And he puts the work in to be great.’’ (June 2016)
June 2016: Bradley and wife Erin welcomed their first child.
As of the start of the 2017 season, Jackie's career Major League stats were a .237 batting average, 40 home runs and 298 hits with 170 RBI's in 1,258 at-bats.
May 12, 2017: As Jackie has pursued various things in his life, including his baseball career, the one constant source of encouragement throughout all the ups and downs has been his mother, Alfreda.
"My mother is a strong, independent woman who raised her kids to always continue to just get better in their daily lives. She has very strong faith and she just made sure you're thankful for every single day because things could be a lot worse," said Bradley. "She always put a lot of perspective into life and I'm very appreciative of her and the things she's been through and the sacrifices she's made in order to make us better people, and for us to just be able to thrive at whatever we do.
"She encouraged me with baseball, but she encouraged me with everything. Anything that you pretty much put your mind to or desired, she wanted to support you and help you along the way and make sure you stayed on track." (I Browne - MLB.com - May 12, 2017)
June 2011: The Red Sox had chosen Bradley in the first round of supplemental portion of the draft, the 40th player picked, out of the University of South Carolina. Just before the deadline in August, he signed for a bonus of $1.1 million, with scout Quincy Boyd.
- Jan 13, 2017: Bradley and the Red Sox avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.6 million.
|Birth City:||Richmond, VA|
|Draft:||Red Sox #1 (suppl.) - 2011 - Out of Univ. of So. Carolina|
Bradley is an above-average lefthanded hitter with average pull-side power. He has good bat speed for doubles and a few home runs, probably growing into 10 to 15 homers per season, eventually.
Jackie takes a big hack, but is also able to shorten his swing, letting the ball travel deep into the zone and hitting line shots to left-center field. He has a nice, level stroke and is a pure hitter. He has hand speed through the zone and hitting rhythm. His feel for the strike zone and ability to work counts gives him a chance to hit at the top of an order.
Bradley is at his best offensively when he stays inside the ball and uses the opposite field. He's not physical, but he has a sound lefthanded stroke, a good grasp of the strike zone, and average power to the gaps.
He attacks the baseball. But he can get a bit pull happy at times. Jackie does so at the expense of his plate discipline and line-to-line hitting approach. After being beaten by inside fastballs in his first big league callup, he showed signs during 2013 of making improvements to address that deficiency. Evaluators are convinced his aptitude, pitch recognition, and strike-zone awareness will permit him to make the necessary adjustments. (Spring 2014)
Bradley has good strike zone discipline. He is an on-base machine, working deep counts. He has made adjustments at the plate. He has put in the work to get his lower half established, and there's a lot less moving parts [to his swing]. His hands are moving down through the ball and it's made him a better line drive hitter with gap power.
Jackie does not give in to lefthanded pitchers, shortening his swing.
May 26, 2016: Bradley's hitting streak ended at 29 games. It was the longest in the Major Leagues since Denard Span, who also had a 29-game streak in 2013. He was trying to become the first player to reach 30 games since Andre Ethier and Dan Uggla in 2011.
The streak began on April 24. It matched Johnny Damon in 2005 for the longest by a Red Sox player since Nomar Garciaparra hit in 30 straight games in 1997. (Ian Browne - MLB.com)
Bradley grew up a natural righthanded hitter before switching to the left side early in his baseball career. He still throws with his right, with the strength and accuracy to match just about any center fielder in the Majors. This suggests that the conversion to switch-hitting may be possible.
- Jackie plays an excellent center field. He easily covers both gaps, taking good routes to the ball. He is a solid big league center fielder.
- You won't find five guys in the game right now that play center field as well as Bradley. He gets exceptional jumps and effortlessly tracks balls down from gap to gap.
- Bradley has a very strong arm and a quick, accurate release. His throws from the outfield have been clocked in the 90s.
- He has outstanding instincts and remarkable quickness.
- Jackie relentlessly works on his defense, shooing pitchers out of his way as he shags balls during batting practice, and opposing managers praise his dedication to the game.
Bradley tracks down balls as if his glove had GPS. He doesn’t run them down. He casually meets up with them, relying on angles, intelligence, and instincts. There is a Rondo-esque sixth sense to his rendez-vous with the baseball.
“You’re kind of thinking ahead,” said Bradley. “You move over and then someone hits it there, and they’re like, ‘What in the world? How did he get there?’ I’m just trying to pay attention, read swings, know certain players’ tendencies, and where people hit the ball.”
2015: Triple-A managers and coaches voted Bradley as the International League’s Best Defensive Outfielder.
- Jackie has above-average speed, but it plays up because he has excellent instincts—both on the bases and in the outfield.
- Bradley reads pitchers well, allowing him to steal bases.
- Though he's an average runner on the stopwatch, he has above-average speed once under way and uses it uses judiciously on the base paths and in the outfield.
- Jackie can wreak some havoc on the bases. He is a high-energy player.
November 2008: Bradley spent eight days in a hospital bed after being diagnosed with blood clots in his right arm and shoulder due to an extra rib restricting blood flow.
- 2010: Bradley's sophomore year at South Carolina, he broke his hamate bone during spring practice. But he was back in the batter's box by the second week of the season.
April 23, 2011: Jackie injured his left wrist diving for a ball in a game vs. Misssissippi State. The play resulted in a sprained tendon that required surgery to repair ligament and tendon damage.
July 31-August 9, 2013: Bradley was on the D.L. with elbow and biceps injuries.
April 9-21, 2017: The Red Sox placed Jackie on the 10-day disabled list after he sprained his right knee.
- Aug 23-Sept 2, 2017: Jackie was on the DL with sprained left thumb.