Torey Lovullo has walked the path Jackie Bradley may be setting out on
|03.28.13 at 8:15 am ET|
FORT MYERS, Fla. – When Torey Lovullo sees what Jackie Bradley is experiencing, it brings back memories.
Like Lovullo, Bradley finds himself potentially on the cusp of making a major league roster less than two years after being drafted out of college, getting to take the leap right around the age of 23 years old.
“Timing-wise, age-wise, we’re very similar,” Lovullo said. “I was 23 years old and the big leagues thought I was equipped and ready to handle any level and any type of pitching possible. But I knew deep down I didn’t have the proper instruction up until that point.
“Two totally different mindsets, two totally different guys. In talking to [Bradley] he is fully loaded. He has a great knowledge of what it takes to be a big leaguer. He’s got great exposure to a big league atmosphere. He also has been a great student of the game. He was on that platform in college. He got into pro ball. He’s had great instruction here from the player development staff. They taught him the different quadrants, how to hit in different areas. Defensively his game is very solid as well. Baserunning, he’s fully equipped. That’s a tribute to him, his ability to learn and the player development group that has him ready for this opportunity. Me on the other hand, I just went out there and the organization threw baseballs out there and said, ‘Go get them, kid, and good luck.’ It was great on one side because I was able to express myself any way I wanted to, but I really didn’t know the dynamics of what it took to become a big leaguers.”
Lovullo actually hit the majors just slightly earlier than Bradley would, having been called up to the Tigers two months after his 23rd birthday, at the completion of his second professional season.
The UCLA product impressed so much over his 12-game stint – hitting .381 with a 1.076 OPS – the next spring Detroit decided to commit to Lovullo as its starting first baseman.
That lasted approximately a month, with the then-23-year-old hitting just .115 before being sent down.
“I went to Triple-A at the end of my first full season and I got called up because Lou Whitaker was injured. He went out dancing after a game in New York City and he hurt his knee and he got put on the disabled list for the final 20 games of the year,” Lovullo remembered. “So I hadn’t necessarily earned or deserved a call-up, but it was more out of necessity that I got called up. I went up to the big leagues and everybody was pumping fastballs out over the place to me and I hit the ball very well. I thought, ‘Wow, I can attack the ball just as good as I can attack the strike zone.’ But then suddenly to start the 1989 season things changed. They discovered I had some holes. I just didn’t have everything in my equipment bag that I should.
“What I learned was it was cold, the stakes were a little higher, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be and things got very challenging.”
Still, while Lovullo can see obvious similarities between his path and what Bradley might be setting out on, the coach insists there are important differences, the kind which might allow the former South Carolina Gamecok to succeed where his instructor fell short.
But if there are any bumps in the road, Lovullo stands at the ready with a story to tell Bradley.
“What’s funny is if you go down memory lane with these guys, they go, ‘This old man, who is he and what does he know.’ But Jackie would probably sit there and listen to me,” he said. “I don’t want to bog him down with anything like that. If it ever gets to the point where he needs to have that conversation. He makes the team and goes north and he wants to sit down and does enough research to see his paths and my path is very, very similar, then I would be more willing to talk to him about whatever he wants to talk about.”
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