June 29, 2010

Championship Series Game 2 Recap: South Carolina 2, UCLA 1 (11)

Box Score

Game Notes

Roth, Price Dig Deep for Gamecocks

USC Looks Like Champion Now

CWS Scores and Game Stories

College World Series Capsules


Bradley Shines in Omaha

By Sean Ryan

CollegeBaseballInsider.com Co-Founder

(Photos by Craig Jackson)


OMAHA, Neb. – Across the Southeast and beyond, more than a few college coaches are kicking themselves.


For the past 11 days, they’ve watched Jackie Bradley Jr. blossom on the national stage, helping lead South Carolina to its first national championship. For the past 11 days, many are probably lamenting the fact that they missed on the sweet-swinging, smooth-fielding centerfielder from Prince George, Va., a short drive from Richmond.


Coaches miss on players all the time. It’s part of recruiting. It just becomes a little more painful when the player goes on to become the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series.


“Everybody overlooked him,” his father Jackie Bradley Sr. said Tuesday night on the infield of Rosenblatt Stadium, college baseball’s biggest stage. “I don’t know how they overlooked him.”


Bradley wasn’t a huge kid when he made the Prince George High School varsity as a ninth-grader. A bit raw but with loads of potential, some Virginia colleges, namely VMI, showed interest. But by and large, Bradley didn’t attract a ton of attention.


Former South Carolina assistant Monte Lee, now the head coach at College of Charleston, first spotted Bradley, and Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner got a look at a showcase tournament at East Cobb outside of Atlanta when Bradley was playing for the Richmond Braves travel team.


“When you go recruit players, sometimes, you can have a stopwatch, see a ball go out of the yard or a guy get three hits, and you go, ‘he’s going to be good,’” Tanner said. “That’s not exactly accurate. You get a guy like Jackie Bradley who has tremendous character and he has ability, it’s a pretty good combination.


“He’s one of the best baseball players I’ve ever coached. I’ve had guys that ran faster; I’ve had guys that hit maybe more home runs, but he’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”


Mickey Roberts, Bradley’s high school coach at Prince George, saw signs of greatness. When Bradley delivered a 3-2 offering for a game-tying single against Oklahoma in an elimination game last week, Roberts wasn’t surprised.


“I knew he had tremendous drive,” Roberts said. “He really wanted to succeed and really wanted to do well. I knew he was going to be good. I knew coming out of high school he would have a chance at professional baseball.”


That chance has improved dramatically after a week in which Bradley showcased his talents at the College World Series.


But it hasn’t come without a lot of hard work.


His mother, Alfreeda Hagans, recalls questioning why Bradley would continue to work out even after practice was done.


“Ever since Jackie’s been young, he’s always worked hard,” she said. “Even after practice, he’d go practice on his own, run hills.” Bradley would say, “Mom, in order to be the best, you’ve got to do extra, you’ve got to work hard.”


So Bradley worked. And worked. And worked.


“I have no idea,” the star outfielder said about the recruiting process. “I guess they overlooked, as they say, or made a mistake. I’m glad of where I am now. I have no regrets. I’m so glad I came to college and I believe I came to the best program in the country.”


His younger brother Dominique Bradley said Tuesday night, “The way I look at it, now all those teams that are watching him play know, they’re looking like, ‘Aw man, what a great kid we could have had on our team.’”


Tanner and the Gamecocks are grateful they found Bradley. Quiet, yet confident, Tanner calls him a team-first kind of player.


And now, he’s gone from small-town Prince George, Va., to the toast of Omaha.


“The last one at Rosenblatt, it’s definitely going to be a memory that we can hold on to,” Bradley said after cradling the Most Outstanding Player trophy. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”