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Brantley goes way back with Toronto manager Gibbons

TORONTO -- Michael Brantley always enjoys the chance to catch up with Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. When Brantley was just a boy, Gibbons gave him a taste of what it was like to be a professional ballplayer.

Brantley's dad, Mickey, was the hitting coach for Gibbons in 1996, when the Toronto skipper was the manager of the Class A St. Lucie Mets. Michael, who was around nine years old at the time, was allowed to take the field with the team during workouts in the summer.

"Gibby's the man," Brantley said. "He was great for me. As a kid, he allowed me to come on the field and work out with the team. It was almost like I was a player. I'd go hit in the cages and just be one of the guys. He allowed me to do that. He was the manager, so it's his team. For him to allow me to be a part of that environment, it meant a lot to me and my development."

Gibbons, who also had Mickey Brantley (a member of the Mariners during his playing career) on his coaching staff with the Blue Jays for parts of the 2005-07 seasons, smiled when asked about Cleveland's left fielder.

"He's just such a fluid, natural athlete," Gibbons said. "His dad was a really good hitter, so you know he's getting some good teaching. He's a first-class kid. Very professional. It really doesn't surprise me some of the things he's done."

Entering Wednesday's game, the 26-year-old Brantley was batting .278 with a team-leading seven home runs and 30 RBIs through 38 games. Brantley also had eight doubles, 13 walks and 20 runs scored for Cleveland, which signed him to a four-year extension worth $25 million in February.

"You know what he does? He does it when it matters -- at least against us he does," Gibbons said with a chuckle. "When you need something good done, he's usually right in the middle of it. And lefties, righties, it doesn't matter. He's not known as a power hitter, but he can bring you deep, too, man."

Brantley said he will always be appreciative of Gibbons.

"When a person kind of opens a door for you and allows you to be part of his locker room as a manager, I think that's special, especially as a young kid," Brantley said. "I was coming up trying to be a baseball player and wanting to be a baseball player, having a dream, and having that opportunity through my father and, obviously Gibby allowing me being out there with the guys, that meant a lot."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian.
Read More: Cleveland Indians, Michael Brantley