NEW YORK, NY (WACH) - After proving he belongs on the big league roster by putting in a red-hot spring training, former Gamecock Jackie Bradley, Jr. showed he belonged on one of the biggest stages there is in Boston's 8-2 opening day win over the New York Yankees.
Bradley's big league status was a mystery until this weekend, when Boston finally informed the one-time South Carolina star he made the opening day roster after hitting more than .400 during his first spring training with the team.
Bradley made an immediate impact on Monday in Yankee Stadium during his first major league at-bat when he worked a one-out walk after falling behind 0-2 against Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia. That helped Boston touch up New York for four runs in the second inning.
Bradley, sporting his brand-new No. 44 jersey after wearing No. 74 during the spring, then stole a potential RBI hit from Robinson Cano with a running, twisting grab in a swirling wind in left field in the third. Bradley added an RBI groundout in the seventh. He walked also walked three times and scored in his debut.
"It was exciting," Bradley Jr. told Masslive.com. "Its very memorable. Ill never forget it and I was so glad my family was able to come up here with me.
Hundreds of miles away in the stadium where he made his mark, his former Gamecock teammates and coaches were going through business as usual at Carolina Stadium, but, with their mind on Bradley's big day.
"He's a coach's dream," said USC head coach Chad Holbook. "On top of that, he plays the game the right way. A high character kid, loves his teammates, teammates love him."
Those qualities plus his razor-sharp play and impeccable fundamentals helped Bradley earn his Red Sox roster spot.
Gamecock fans were also keeping an eye on one of the most beloved athletes the University of South Carolina has ever produced.
A group of South Carolina students gathered at the Salty Nut Cafe in Columbia's Five Points Monday afternoon just to watch Bradley. Massachusetts native was one of them. The USC junior now finds himself mixing his allegiance to the Red Sox and the Garnet and Black.
"Being a Red Sox fan, and you have Jackie Bradley, Jr., a Gamecock alum, makes me feel great about the team and makes me support it even more," said Grover.
"I never really watched college baseball until I came here (to USC) and seeing a guy I watched for a couple years go out and play in the big leagues is a really cool experience," said student Aaron Lingler.
Bradley didn't notch his first major league hit, but he put in a solid performance on one of the sport's biggest stages and in one of its most storied rivalries.
"All I've been seeing in the Boston papers and the Boston news is talking all about Jackie Bradley, Jr., and it makes me proud to be a Gamecock," said Grover.
And the people who helped him hone his craft at the college level see plenty of big things ahead for the 22-year-old Bradley.
"He's a kid that's easy to fall in love with," said Holbrook. "I figured the Red Sox would do that and I suspect he'll be in Boston a long time."