Infielder Bradley Strong was drafted in the 28th round by the Chicago White Sox this past year. He got his first action of professional baseball playing in the Arizona League. He batted .326 with 31 RBIs and 35 runs scored in 48 games. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Bradley regarding what he has accomplished so far in his baseball career and what is ahead for the 2016 season.
When did you start playing baseball and what got you into the sport?
“I started playing baseball around 4 years old, and with my dad being a high school baseball coach I would always find myself at the baseball field.”
Did you have a favorite team growing up? Any players that you admired as a kid?
“I really never had a favorite team because I grew up in an area without any professional sports teams around, but just like most other kids my age I was a huge fan of Derek Jeter.”
Has playing professional baseball always been a goal of yours. Did you often think to yourself that one day, you could be in the position you are now?
“I definitely envisioned playing professional baseball as a kid, and looking back I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to do anything else but play baseball.”
You spent all four years at Western Carolina University, owned a school record in career triples at 18, and in your senior year you were named First Team All-Southern Conference. What went into your decision to attend WCU, and how do you think your time there will help you become a better baseball player in the future?
“Coach Moranda really just made me feel like I was a top priority in my recruiting class, and I wanted to go to a school where I was valued like that. I learned how to do a lot with less while I was at WCU. We never had the best facilities or equipment, so I would say my “blue-collar” background at WCU has taught me how to make due in whatever circumstance I’m in.”
You were drafted in the 28th round of the 2015 Draft by the Chicago White Sox, take us through the draft experience for you and what it was like when you found out you were selected by Chicago?
“Man I tell people that day was the best/worst day of my life. The anxiety I was feeling leading up to the 28th round was something awful. I tried to keep myself occupied doing different things throughout the day, but as the draft became close to ending I was beginning to think that my career was over. That was a pretty depressing thought, but when my phone rang in the 27th round it was truly a dream come true.”
Does it motivate you more to prove people wrong since you weren’t drafted until the 28th round?
“Most definitely it does make me play with a chip on my shoulder, but that’s the way I’ve always played so it’s no different for me.”
Last year, you got your first taste of playing professional baseball in the Arizona League. What do you think has been your biggest transition from college to the pros?
“My biggest transition into the pros is probably just the attention to detail in all areas of the game. I learned so much from all the instructors, and I’m grateful that they are so willing to share what they’ve learned throughout their experiences in baseball.”
In 48 games, you batted .326 with 4 triples and 12 stolen bases. What do you think are your strengths in your game and also what areas of your game do you think you can improve on?
“I think my biggest strength is probably my defense, and I’d really like to improve on my bunting for base-hits. If I’m able to do that, I’ll obviously be on base more, and I feel like I’m able to change the game on the base paths as well.”
What have you been doing this offseason in regards to training to prepare for the upcoming season?
“I spent the month of January in Tampa with a trainer named Levi Jaeckel at his gym “Perform 24,” and with his help I definitely feel more explosive and a quicker with my first step.”
Any individual goals of yours that you would like to accomplish this season?
“Obviously I would like to start the season on a full-season team, and I feel poised to make a big leap forward this year as a professional baseball player.”