Jackie Bradley had no idea where he would be selected in Monday night’s Major League Baseball draft, but he was filled with hope as he watched the television broadcast with his family at a Vista restaurant.
When Hall of Fame outfielder Jim Rice, an Anderson native who played his entire career with the Boston Red Sox, stepped to the podium to announce the No. 40 pick, which belonged to Boston, Bradley stopped hoping and started celebrating.
“It was a very special moment that I was able to share with my family,” he said at a news conference Tuesday. “Just to hear your name finally called is a blessing.”
USC’s All-American center fielder had come to the realization that a tough junior season — one that included struggles at the plate and a wrist injury that sidelined him April 23 — was going to knock him out of the first round and into the compensation round. But he refused to let his falling stock bother him and took in the draft with no nervousness.
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“There are no excuses to be made about it. I had an off year,” he said. “But I know the kind of ballplayer I am. Apparently, Boston knows the kind of ballplayer I am or they wouldn’t have picked me. For them to have faith in me and know what I can do, it’s great.”
Bradley, who had the cast taken off his surgically repaired wrist 12 days ago, hit .259 in 37 games before damaging tendons attempting to make a diving catch against Mississippi State.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound native of Prince George, Va., had a storied career in three seasons as one of college baseball’s premier defenders, who hit .336 with 30 homers and 132 RBIs in 167 games. Moreover, he impressed scouts by earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the 2010 College World Series and with his play for Team USA and in the Cape Cod League the previous two summers.
His wrist is slowly healing, and although it’s not likely he will rejoin the Gamecocks this season, he remains positive about his health going forward. Doctors are advising him to take it slow when it comes to swinging a bat.
“It’s feeling good,” Bradley said “I’m getting my range of motion back. I’m taking it day-by-day, and I’m working as hard as I can.”
Bradley is being advised by Scott Boras, a high-profile agent known for tough negotiating tactics. That could mean Bradley will not sign until shortly before the Aug. 15 deadline for players with college eligibility remaining. It also means he might try to get back on the field to show he’s healthy in order to command a higher bonus.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with that. Playing in the Cape (Cod League) is definitely one of the options that we want to check out if need be (when) I get back healthy. I wouldn’t mind playing in the Cape at all,” he said. “We’ll see where it goes in a couple of weeks when I’m back swinging (the bat) again and try to get a feel for everything. Then I think I’ll be able to make a better decision.”
The 40th pick in the 2010 draft, high school outfielder Ryan Bolden, received a slotted bonus of $830,000. Boras is well-known for getting his players more money than MLB recommends for each slot in the early rounds.
Bradley is prepared to push things up to the deadline.
“If it does happen that way, I’m all for it,” he said. “There’s no rush. I’m living in the moment right now.”