It wasn’t too long ago that 26 year old Jackie Bradley Jr was in the Cape Cod league as a MLB hopeful. Joining college-aged players from around the nation, Jackie competed with the best of them to make a name for himself as he eyed a career in the bigs.
It paid off.
While Jackie’s work ethic, talent, and cannon for a arm set him apart from the pack come draft day, he has not forgotten the family that made it all possible–while staying far from his hometown Jackie was taken in by the DiGiovanni’s who hosted the young outfielder during his summer down on the Cape. Tino and Terri have been fixtures on the Cape since 2003 hosting young ballplayers while providing housing, food, and friendly parental advice.
“Your job is to look over them, protect them and help them when they need it,” said Tino. “You’re at a very critical spot in a kid’s life. He’s dreamed about being a Major League player, and now he has an opportunity to be seen by Major League scouts. His head is spinning; doesn’t know if he’s going to be successful. He’s not at his comfort level because everyone is trying to do what he’s trying to do. You’re there to try and pick him up. Not to drill in baseball or try to fix everything, just making him comfortable, relaxed and focused. The focus part for me is the biggest thing you could do.”
Many years later, Jackie hasn’t forgotten.
“That really set the tone for playing on the Cape,” JBJ said. “Being comfortable allows you to be comfortable on the field. I probably had the best host family on the Cape and I can say that with no inflection. It was a lot of fun and they really made things comfortable for me; meals, making sure I was there on time. It was a professional organization and I had a lot of fun playing.”
It was more than just a home though, the DiGiovanni’s provided Jackie with much-needed support when the young outfielder struggled early on in his Cape league career providing him with the mental toughness and reassurance that carried him straight to the Sox. Tino had much to say of Jackie’s optimisim, grit, and toughness.
“Jackie is a good example,” he said. “The first half of the season I don’t think he was batting the size of his hat. He had a heck of a freshman year at South Carolina and came here and expected to do the same thing. He didn’t make the All-Star team, and then said to me ‘watch me the second half.’ That second half he was by far the best player in the league. He was comfortable.
He had a way about him, a way of confidence a lot of guys don’t have. It’s a quiet confidence,” Tino said of the Sox outfielder. “That ‘I can do it.’ Most of the guys that stayed with us have varying degrees of ability, and some of them will never tap their real ability for one reason or another. They don’t believe in themselves enough.”
Now Jackie is batting .320 as the Sox’ No. 5 hitter while slugging 10 homers, driving in 43 runs, and leading the league with five triples. He’s played sterling defense in center, shown the Fenway Faithful and the MLB a taste of what he can do, and taken enormous strides from his early struggles. You couldn’t hope for a better kid to succeed as Jackie has been a Disney story from the start, here’s to hoping the kid keeps it up and caps off 2016 with an All Star appointment and a ring.