Jackie Bradley Jr. definitely struggled in his time with the Boston Red Sox earlier this year, batting .097 with a .263 on-base percentage and just one extra-base hit in 31 at-bats.
But the 23-year-old, who was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket on April 18, still is considered the Red Sox center fielder of the future and is hitting well for the PawSox.
He spent some time on the disabled list this month with right biceps tendinitis but he is healthy now. Heading into Friday’s game, he was batting .322 with a .420 on-base percentage, three doubles, one triple and one homer in 59 at-bats.
Bradley recently went one-on-one with Eagle-Tribune baseball writer Christopher Smith to discuss the low number of African-Americans in baseball, the importance of confidence and how his swing is coming along.
Smitty: I’ve heard your dad was named after either Jackie Robinson or singer Jackie Wilson.
Bradley: Jackie Wilson is who my dad’s name derived from. My grandma was a big Jackie Wilson fan. So that’s how my dad’s name came about. So not Jackie Robinson.
Smitty: Were you a kid who read a lot about black history in baseball?
Bradley: I feel like every minority at least knew of Jackie Robinson and what contributions he had towards the game with breaking the color barrier.
I feel like everyone at least knew of the story and how it went, but I was very much in tune into it when I was younger to actually find and do research about him. I wanted to see what he was all about. Not just in baseball but the type of person he was.
Smitty: What did you learn about him?
Bradley: Just really (he was about) equality and respect. Not necessarily respect for the game but a respect in the aspect of treating everybody the same no matter what he dealt with. He wanted to play baseball and he wanted to be a part of something much greater than him. It wasn’t about him. It was ... for all the guys who are minorities who are able to play the game now.
And he wanted to do it the right way — without violence. And he was all about winning. What more can you ask from a person?
Smitty: There obviously have been some tremendous African-American ballplayers. Which black players did you grow up watching and idolizing?
Bradley: Ken Griffey Jr.. I liked Frank Thomas. Torii Hunter is one of the big guys I really, really enjoy watching. I love the way he plays defense and just the whole confidence that he carries. He’s like the leader of whatever team he goes to. He’s a vocal guy. Just seeing him operate out there and just enjoying himself. (Also), Bo Jackson in his short little span. That was unbelievable.
Smitty: Recent surveys say only about 8 percent of MLB is African-American. Why do you think many top African-American athletes choose football and basketball over baseball?
Bradley: I guess what draws them to football and basketball — the saying is “quick rich, quick fame.” With those sports, there is not really multiple levels that you have to go through in order to make it to the top. You get drafted and if you’re a pretty high pick in those sports, you’re going to get your chance right away at the highest level. It’s quick fame. You think of LeBron James or those guys who play football and come from college and their path goes straight up to the highest level.
Baseball, it’s more of process. There’s so many different aspects of the game of baseball that you have to work on and improve. I guess a lot of guys just don’t want to take the time and take the chance.
Smitty: Well, you’re obviously going through that process now. What do you enjoy about it, especially having already had a stint in the majors and struggling there?
Bradley: The process is more of an appreciation to be able to meet different players and meet different coaches and learn as much as you can as fast as you can — and take it with you and make yourself a better ballplayer. You get to travel and go to so many different places and take it all in and enjoy it.
Once you go up there (majors) ... you’ve got the best foods, the best hotels. Knowing that’s what you’re working towards, it really makes you appreciate all of the things that you go through while you’re down here in the minor leagues.
Smitty: What area did you know you needed to work on the most when you were sent down here?
Bradley: It wasn’t a particular pitch or a particular zone or anything like that. Those are things that I know I can do. It was just getting timing back right and being the same ballplayer I am — not letting any of it get to me. It’s a confidence thing. That’s one thing you can’t let go.