Bronx, NY—On Monday afternoon’s opening day at Yankee Stadium, a sold-out crowd of 49,514 had the opportunity to see a star in the making. Jackie Bradley, Jr. was starting in leftfield for the Boston Red Sox. The heralded 22 year-old was making his debut in the big leagues. The youngster is seemingly on a fast track to stardom as only four years ago he was attending Prince George High School in Virginia.
The all state high school baseball star entered the University of South Carolina in the fall of 2009. His reputation grew greatly during his college years. His batting average during his time at SC was above .350 and in two of the years he was a leading contributor to his team achieving victory in the College World Series. In 2010, he hit successfully in 10 of his 29 official at bats in college baseball’s spotlight event to gain the award as the CWS Most Outstanding Player.
After proving himself at that level, he was ready to move upward. The Red Sox selected him in the supplemental first round of the 2011 Major League Draft with the 40th Overall pick.
Bradley, Jr. was initially sent to Class A to begin the 2012 baseball season. Because of his success, he was promoted to Class AA mid-way through the season. In 128 games of minor league baseball, he compiled a combined .315 batting average. He dazzled in the outfield as well as at the plate that season as he was selected by the organization as its 2012 Minor League Player of the Year.
His .419 batting average during the 2013 Grapefruit League [Spring Training] earned him the rare honor of being brought to the majors without any AAA experience. One day before opening day, Red Sox skipper John Farrell announced the young player’s promotion to the majors.
The news was then conveyed to the youngster’s immediate family. His parents, brother and several other close relatives were in Yankee Stadium to cheer and witness his debut.
His first at bat came in the second inning against Yankees ace CC Sabathia. After two quick strikes, the rookie showed self-disciple and plate maturity by drawing a walk. He showed his speed on the bases by beating Eduardo Nuñez’s throw to second on the next play. Both managers credited his efforts as being the key to the four run inning and the game’s outcome,
Yankee skipper Joe Girardi commented, “I think what hurt him [Sabathia] were the walks, especially the one to Bradley, when he was ahead.” Farrell told reporters, “The key to the inning…was him beating out the throw to second base. Not a bad way to start his career.
Bradley’s alertness as an outfielder was displayed in the next inning as he made an outstanding catch in left of a hard shot by Robinson Cano. After the game Bradley described it, “It was hit over my head…and I just started turning and I tried to pick a spot where it was going to land. I looked up at the right time and there it was coming right at me.”
Although he did not get a hit during the game, Bradley drew three walks, drove in a run and scored twice. He was the first player in the majors since 1920, when runs batted in became an official statistic, to accomplish what he did on his first Opening Day.
After the game, he reacted to his experience, “It was exciting. It’s very memorable. I’ll never forget it; it’s just great, being able to get the first one out of the way. I can’t wait to get back on the field again.
Bradley did not have to wait too long as he was in the starting lineup for game two. He was hit by a pitch in his first trip to the plate in the second and scored the second run for the Red Sox later in the inning. His single to center in the third was his first in the majors and drove in a run.
He was again in the starting lineup in the final game of the series against New York. The left-handed hitter doubled off veteran lefty Andy Pettitte to drive in the first run of the game.
Although no one can know what the future holds, Bradley’s debut as a major leaguer at Yankee Stadium is now in the books of history.