Sent to Seattle
The clubhouse at Fitch Park, the Cubs’ minor-league facility in Mesa, Ariz., is divided into two sections. Picture the letter “H”, where the legs make up the sections which are conjoined by a small corridor that features a multi-sink vanity and entrance to the showers.
While the architecture of the bathrooms was not important, what was important last year during spring training was that I found Milton Bradley in the furthest corner of one wing keeping to himself, listening to music in front of his locker.
He had been on edge with the media already, just a couple of weeks into spring camp. I had observed the only other teammate he talked to was the Rule 5 kid David Patton. But I approached Bradley nonetheless.
Introductions were civil and polite. As we continued talking, he did not seem at all to be the brash, angry, or curt person I expected. Rather, he came off with an intellectual aura about him, saying he loved to read and write poetry and that his favorite poet while growing up was Langston Hughes. He was an honor roll student and was actually offered several academic scholarships coming out of Long Beach Polytechnic (Calif.) High School in addition to the baseball scholarships.
In all honesty, he reminded me of the actor Laurence Fishburne. There was an edge to him, but a smart edge.
Of course, there was also the Milton Bradley who teammates tell me isolated himself, made snippy comments in the batting cage and argued with umpires, earning him an ejection in his first at-bat at Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, it portended of things to come.
It was a tumultuous year in Chicago for Bradley. Like Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said today after he dealt the troubled outfielder to Seattle in exchange for right-hander Carlos Silva and cash, “Looking back, we all saw the player [Milton] could’ve been coming out of camp. But he got off to a bad start and the expectations were high. Once it went down that road, he just didn’t handle it very well.”
And when he tried to do something nice for the fans–like throw a ball into the stands –he didn’t realize it was two outs, and thus inspired their ire.
It was like there were two sides to Milton Bradley and Cubs fans had to do a double take to see which one had shown up each day.
Now he’s off to Seattle, the home of the Space Needle, grunge rock and coffee. But which Milton will show up–regular or decaf?
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