Bradley Jr.: Negro Leagues players 'pioneers'

August 16th, 2020

Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who had the honor of wearing a patch on his uniform for Sunday night’s game against the Yankees to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues being founded, felt some special memories of his childhood flood back to him.

“It means a lot,” Bradley said of MLB’s league-wide tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Negro Leagues. “A lot of time has passed in between. There’s been a lot of great ballplayers that have played this game, to think about all the adversity they’ve been through, they are recognized as some of the greats, some of the pioneers who helped push your game to be the game that it is today.”

Bradley recently reflected in a phone conversation with on when the Negro Leagues started to influence his life.

“I want to say probably around junior high school, right before I got to high school, I started learning a lot more and obviously with growing up in a Black household, they always talked about guys who played back in the day and how good they were,” said Bradley.

If only Bradley could have worn his prized Negro Leagues jacket on Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.

“I actually remember having a Negro League jacket that had all of the teams on it when I was a lot younger. I wish I was still able to wear that jacket but I grew out of it,” Bradley said. “It was pretty cool. It was unique and it was something I had a lot of pride in.”

During several visits Kansas City in recent years, Bradley made it a point to go to the Negro Leagues Museum with long-time Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione and he would always visit with Negro Leagues Museum President Bob Kendrick.

Each time Bradley visits the museum, he feels like he is being transported to the Negro Leagues era.

“They definitely try to paint a very, very vivid picture of what it was like,” Bradley said. “Obviously, I wasn’t old enough to really know the ins and outs or get the chance to physically watch them play but to be able to go through a little time machine when you’re in that museum and hear the stories and see the memorabilia and see some video, it’s special, it’s something that kind of holds that memory of what those guys were able to accomplish.”

To celebrate the founding of the Negro Leagues 100 years ago, MLB had managers, coaches and umpires will wear a symbolic Negro Leagues 100th anniversary logo patch for Sunday’s games.

“It’s definitely something that not only African Americans know about but I’m sure a lot of guys from a lot of different ethnicities recognize what they were able to do in order for multiple people of this world to be able to play this game that we enjoy, just not for one particular race. It’s for all races,” said Bradley.

Getting technical
Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez definitely knows what has been holding him back during a difficult start in which he took a line of .234/.322/.416 with him to Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

Now, he just needs to fix it.

“My hips are sliding. I’m drifting uphill. Can’t stay on my backside, so I loop the barrel,” said Martinez. “I have to make decisions further out front. If you want to get technical, whenever your hips slide, you have to make decisions more out in front. Whenever you have to make decisions more out in front, you don’t recognize pitches.”

Less technical
When Rafael Devers is slumping, as he’s been for much of this season, it’s easy to note how often he chases pitches out of the strike zone.

However, Devers pointed out prior to Sunday night’s game against the Yankees that he also chases when he’s going well.

“As you all know, I’m just an aggressive hitter,” Devers said. “That’s something even last year, I was swinging at things outside the zone a lot, too, and the only difference was I was actually getting hits. That doesn’t change the approach that I have now. I’m still doing the same exact things that I’ve been doing last season and even the years before.”

While Devers noted his approach is hardly perfect, he thinks he can succeed with it.

“Like I mentioned to you guys, this is something that I’ve struggled with from time to time in my career, even in the Minor Leagues,” Devers said. “I’m always able to get past that because I just have a positive mindset when I go into these things, where I know I’m going to snap out of the funk and I just continue to just work on my swing and do everything I can to improve every single day. I feel great, right now, the ball is just not falling.”