Upon signing with the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this month, former Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. did not rush to social media to bid farewell to the organization he had spent the first 10 years of his professional career with.
“I don’t want it to just be some short thing,” he said back on March 8. “The years that you invest and put in, I don’t think it would justice for me to just give a little tidbit over this. I will gather my thoughts and emotions and be able to put it into words soon.”
On Wednesday, the final day before the start of the 2021 regular season, Bradley Jr. put his thoughts and emotions into words via an essay, as the soon-to-be 31-year-old penned a heartfelt piece for The Players’ Tribune titled: ‘Dear Red Sox Nation.’
In 288 words, the former first-round draft pick-turned-top prospect-turned Gold Glove-caliber centerfielder reflected on the ups and downs he experienced in his time with the Sox and how special it was to make his first Opening Day roster in 2013.
“April 1, 2013 — eight years ago, tomorrow — was the beginning of a new chapter for my career,” Bradley Jr. wrote. “It’s one that would be filled with hardships and triumphs, but most importantly growth. From the Merloni Shuttle to the duck boat parades; from hitting slumps to hitting streaks; from All-Star Games to Gold Gloves; and from last-place finishes to World Series championships … my baseball career in New England has been one that’s challenged me to always be present in the moment.
“And to always be better than the day before.”
Over the course of eight big-league seasons with the Red Sox, Bradley Jr.’s accolades include putting together a 29-game hitting streak and making his first All-Star team in 2016, winning ALCS MVP and his first World Series and Gold Glove award in 2018, and quite frankly establishing himself as one of, if not the best defensive outfielder in baseball.
“These memories and accomplishments would not have been possible without God, hard work, dedication, family, friends, teammates, coaches, and support staff,” he added. “The relationships I’ve made over the years, both on and off the field, have helped me to become the player and person I am today — and I’m so grateful for that.”
One relationship Bradley Jr. made while in Boston was with Alex Cora, who managed the Gold Glover in 2018 and 2019. And while Cora was not surprised by Bradley Jr. signing elsewhere, he will miss the player he had gotten to known in more than just an on-the-field capacity.
“Solid player, better person,” Cora said of Bradley Jr. earlier this month. “Very consistent at everything he did. It was a pleasure to have him in the clubhouse, to know him off the field and get to know his family. An outstanding kid. He did some great things while he was here. He was amazing in 2018.
“He has a fan from afar,” added the Sox skipper. “I’ll be paying attention. Off the field, we’re going to keep having a relationship.”
Bradley Jr.’s deal with the Brewers will net the Virginia native $13 million in 2021. It also includes a $11 million player option for a potential second year in 2022, though Bradley Jr. could hit the open market once again this winter if he so chooses.
As Bradley Jr. prepares to embark on a new journey in Milwaukee — playing alongside the likes of Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Can — he will also be sure to cherish the memories he made in Boston from here on out.
“So before each of us officially turns the page to our next chapter, I just wanted to say: Red Sox Nation, thank you,” Bradley Jr. wrote. “It was an honor.”
(Picture of Jackie Bradley Jr.: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)