BOSTON — What a difference a year has made for Jackie Bradley Jr.
At this time in 2015, the Red Sox outfielder was toiling away in Triple-A Pawtucket, trying to shake a brutal hitting slump and return to the big-league level. Fast forward to Tuesday, when Bradley learned he will join five of his Boston teammates in Major League Baseball’s 2016 All-Star Game.
Bradley’s first-ever All-Star selection represents a remarkable turnaround for the 26-year-old outfielder, who entered Tuesday with a .294 batting average and a .927 OPS, good for sixth in the American League.
“I’ve been through a lot of adversity, but honestly, I think that shows that I’m willing to go through it, to put the work in and keep moving forward,” Bradley said before Tuesday’s game against the Texas Rangers. “It sounds a little cliché — everybody always says, ‘It’s a dream come true.’ I never really thought of ‘All-Star’ as being a dream for me. My dream was always to play at a major league level.
“I’ve been able to be an All-Star at every single level that I’ve played at on a consistent basis. So, I’m glad that I get to be an All-Star at the top level as well.”
Bradley came with high expectations as the 40th overall pick out of South Carolina in the 2011 MLB Draft. But few could have predicted he’d be an All-Star after a rocky start to his big-league career that saw him bat .198 during his first full season in 2014 and need a late surge to hit .249 during an up-and-down 2015 campaign.
Yet Bradley hasn’t given in, and his work will be rewarded on July 12 in San Diego, where he’ll start in the AL’s outfield alongside teammate Mookie Betts.
“To see Jackie emerge and grow up to this point is rewarding for all of us,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ve remained patient with him. … He’s come out the backside a mentally tough, young player and an extremely talented guy.”
That patience has paid off, as Bradley has emerged as one of the best hitters on the highest-scoring offense in baseball. He reeled off an MLB-best 29-game hitting streak earlier this season and entered Tuesday with 13 homers and 53 RBIs, both career highs with half of the season still remaining.
“You can’t be discouraged,” Bradley added. “I went through a lot. Whether it was physically, mentally or emotionally, those kinds of things you can’t forget. You need to use it to your advantage or you can sulk, and I didn’t think (sulking) was an option for me.”
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images