For Jackie Bradley Jr., getting to Fenway Park on Tuesday proved no problem. He still has a residence in the Boston area. After having played parts of nine seasons with the Red Sox – a tenure that featured 462 games in the outfield at Fenway, 12th most in team history – Bradley likely could make the commute to work with his eyes closed.
But shortly after his arrival, finding his way around Fenway as a member of the Blue Jays introduced an element of unfamiliarity.
“I had to have help getting to the locker room. I didn’t know where to go. The players laughed at me as I asked where the batting cage [was]. It’s an adjustment but it’s cool,” said Bradley. “I’m glad to be back here.”
Bradley’s tenure with the Red Sox ended on Aug. 4, when the team designated him for assignment shortly after the trade deadline. The 32-year-old, who’d been reacquired by the Red Sox last December in a trade that sent outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers, said that he wasn’t surprised by the move at a time when he was hitting .210/.257/.321 for the Sox.
“Terrible by my standards. I was never really happy with the way I performed,” said Bradley. “But I came to work every day, put the work in. Sometimes the results don’t always align [with the effort]. And that’s the way I felt but you’ve got to continue to come in, put the work in, and help the team any way you possibly can that day.”
A few days after being released by the Sox, Bradley signed with the Blue Jays, who were in need of help in center field with George Springer limited by elbow issues and more recently sidelined by a knee injury.
After scoring twice in the third inning and finishing 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI, Bradley is hitting .267 with four RBIs and three runs scored in 10 games (five starts) for the Jays while being energized by playing for a team that currently occupies one of the three AL wild card spots.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity that I have now. I’m thankful for the opportunity that I had [with the Red Sox]. And I’m excited to be [at Fenway],” said Bradley. “Everything happens for a reason. I’m very thankful for the opportunity that I have [with the Blue Jays]. Obviously we have aspirations to try to make it deep into the playoffs and ultimately want to win a World Series.”
Of course, Bradley has experience in the fulfillment of such a mission. As a member of the Red Sox in 2018, he earned ALCS MVP honors by driving in nine runs against the Astros. He also hit a game-tying homer off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in Game 3 of the World Series, a blast that sent that game into extra innings.
“He did a lot of great things for this organization not only on the field but off the field. You talk about professionals and Jackie Bradley Jr. is one that always comes to mind,” said Sox manager Alex Cora. “From my end, obviously everyone talks about the defense, but I will always remember four swings in October.
“We were very proud of him for everything he’s done, he did, for the organization. I hope we get a great ovation for Jackie whenever he comes up to the plate. And then we’ll make sure we get him out.”
Bradley could relate to the mix of competition and nostalgia. His wife, three children, and father all made the trip to Fenway for the Red Sox-Blue Jays series, a testament to the special place that the venue had and will continue to have for a player who was drafted by the franchise in 2011.
“I’ve got a lot of memories here and my family has a lot of memories here,” said Bradley. “It’s only been a few weeks [since being at Fenway with the Red Sox] but I’m excited to be here.”