Long Island Ducks' Jackie Bradley Jr. bloops a single to...

Long Island Ducks' Jackie Bradley Jr. bloops a single to left field in a game against the Lancaster Stormers, Thursday, April 25, 2024 at Fairfield Properties Ballpark. Credit: George A Faella

Jackie Bradley Jr. had 1,181 regular-season games in the majors behind him, had experienced that thrill of starting for the American League in the 2016 All-Star Game, had felt that joy of winning the World Series with the Red Sox two years later.

The championship ring went nicely with his Gold Glove and ALCS MVP award that season.

Now, here was the 11-year big-league veteran at a minor-league stadium in Central Islip, starting in center and batting third for the Long Island Ducks on Opening Night in the Atlantic League. But the most accomplished member of the 2024 Ducks felt excited for the start of his season, just like the rest.

“I still get to continue to play the game and I get to meet a lot of new people, guys that I’ve competed with,” Bradley said, standing in the Ducks’ dugout at Fairfield Properties Ballpark before Thursday night’s game against the Lancaster Stormers.

“Because I’m playing here doesn’t signify anything different. There are still some really good ballplayers in this league and I looking forward to competing with them.”

Ten players on the Ducks’ roster were in the majors. Nine more had tasted Triple-A life. They will hope to be discovered by a big-league organization again. Bradley, with a career .225 average and .991 fielding percentage, is no different at age 34.

“I still have to finish off strong,” said the lefty-hitting Bradley, who spent nine seasons with Boston, plus time with Milwaukee, Toronto and Kansas City. “Obviously, I want to get back to the big leagues. I want to continue to compete.”

Lew Ford competed in six major-league seasons and 13 with the Ducks, including the past nine as a player/coach. He owns the most hits in franchise history. Now he’s the manager after replacing Wally Backman. Ford appreciates having Bradley on his side.

“Definitely he’s a guy that leads by example,” Ford said. “He’s out there working hard every day. He’s very humble for the career that he’s had. I’m also a fan of the game. I’m excited to watch him play this year and see what he does for us.”

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