PHOENIX, Aug. 17 — When arriving at Chase Field for the first game of three between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Philadelphia Phillies, a familiar beard was in right field. The owner of the beard, however, was wearing grey pants with a red and white stripe down the legs. Plus, he was in the visiting dugout. That was reliever Archie Bradley, who spent nine years in the Diamondbacks organization.
The Archie Bradley Trade
His time in Arizona suddenly ended on August 31, 2020, with an unexpected trade to the Cincinnati Reds. Bradley was as upset as a large part of the Diamondbacks fanbase when he heard about the trade. “I was emotional,” Bradley recalled. “I had some tears coming to my eyes because I have a ton of memories here. From my debut (and) my first win, my first hit that day, the Wild Card Triple, my first save, making the playoffs here….”
Bradley’s debut came April 11, 2015, a 6–0 victory over Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He started the game, allowing one hit while striking out six and walking four in six innings. His first hit was a single off Kershaw with two outs in the bottom of the second. The Wild Card Triple has gone down in Diamondback lore, coming with two outs in the bottom of the seventh of the 2017 Wild Card Game. It came off Colorado Rockies reliever Pat Neshek, driving in Jake Lamb and Daniel Descalso to extend the Diamondbacks lead to 8–5. They held on to win, 11–8. His first save came September 10, 2017, in a 3–2 win over the San Diego Padres, the same year that Bradley pitched in the playoffs for the Diamondbacks.
There was another factor in Bradley’s sadness with being traded. “The relationships I built…. I don’t feel like guys or players talk about that a lot, but from Torey (Lovullo, the manager) to (general manager) Mike Hazen, to the group before that, with (former manager) Chip Hale, (former general manager) Kevin Towers, rest his soul, (former farm director) Mike Bell, R.I.P. There (are) some guys (who) had huge, influential hands on my career and my life. Getting traded away from that…was very tough for me for the next couple of weeks.”
Bradley said he “knew this place like the back of my hand” He “knew every employee here (and) every parking attendant. I was so involved in being a Diamondback and being part of this state emotionally.” Not until the season did it set in that he wasn’t a Diamondback anymore.
Archie Bradley Returns to Chase Field
When Archie Bradley pulled up to Chase Field Tuesday afternoon, he felt a mix of emotions. One was a sense of strangeness with arriving at a different entrance. “(On) the ride in, I texted my fiancée (and) my parents. I said, ‘Hey, I’m already getting a little emotional.’ The way I drove in, coming in the backside, I think I’ve only done that for Fanfest. That’s the only time I’ve been on the visiting side. So to be here, to come full circle where it all started, is emotional. It’s exciting, but it’s also bringing back a lot of lot of memories. The person, the man, the baseball player I’ve become all started here.”
After the 2020 season, the Reds chose to go a different direction, so he was a free agent. The Phillies came calling, seeing him as a great candidate to fill in a giant hole in their relief corps. When he signed, the first thing he did was see when the Phillies would be in Arizona. “I definitely circled this one. My parents are here, and my fiancée’s here. I wanted them to be here, because there’s so much in my life that I owe to this whole area. So I wanted them to be here and be part of (my return).”
Before coming back, Bradley needed to prepare. “I wanted to make sure I was healthy first.” After that, he needed to be mentally and emotionally ready for what was going to hit him. “A lot of my friends are still here (as well as) the coaching staff. The biggest thing is, I want to perform well here. I got to talk to (former Diamondbacks reliever Andrew) Chafin a few times throughout the season. (He) pitched well here but then didn’t pitch well in Chicago against the DBacks.
“So I think the hardest part for me is going to be facing (Christian) Walker, (Ketel) Marte, (David) Peralta, (and Nick) Ahmed. These (are) guys I truly have spent six, seven years with. (So) taking away that emotional connection and getting down to just getting them out, because if you get a hit (or) hit a homer off me, that’s bragging rights for life with somebody. I can’t afford to have that happen. So I think emotionally the hardest part will be locking in and getting the guys out that I need to when it’s time to pitch.”
Archie Bradley and the Fans
Archie Bradley had a special relationship with Diamondbacks fans, too. He wanted to prove that the Diamondbacks made the right decision when choosing him seventh overall — straight out of high school, no less — in the 2011 draft. “I wanted to make good on that first round pick,” he said. “The starter thing didn’t work out, (so I) got moved to the ‘pen, and things took off there.
“I still want (the Diamondbacks) to succeed; I want the players to have a fan base. I’m getting to experience that in Philly, to have a true backing and a true fan base and true support. Even though they boo quite a bit in Philly, they still come up and show out. That’s what I felt like we started to build here: a true connection with the fans. (We want) to let them know how big of a role they play in our season, and how much them showing up and and just being a fan — win, lose, draw, whatever it is — (means to players).”
A Different Animal
Philadelphia fans are a different breed than Arizona fans, and that’s putting it mildly. Bradley noticed that quickly. “There have been times (where), mentally, I have to check myself. I got booed on the first batter of my season in Philly. (After) I walked (Ronald) Acuña to start the year on Opening Day, I got booed. And I was like, ‘Man, I’m not in AZ anymore.’ I don’t think I ever got booed in Arizona. And then two days ago, I gave up the homer to lose the no-hitter, and I got booed hard.
“I’ve learned (that) they expect a lot, and if you don’t perform — no matter who you are, except for maybe Bryce Harper — you’re going to get booed. I kind of like it. You have to check yourself, and you can’t get comfortable. (It keeps you) on your toes. You have to stay performing well, and if you don’t, you’re going to get booed, and you’re going to feel it. You’re going to hear it.”
Learning the National League East
The National League West has the California Trio (San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres) in addition to the Diamondbacks and Rockies. Although Diamondbacks fans don’t want to lose to any divisional opponent, the one that makes their blood boil is the Dodgers. For Phillies fans, the team with that role is the New York Mets. Bradley said about the Mets, “I think we played them second series of the year. A lot of my teammates made a lot of comments that (made me say), ‘Dang, you don’t like these guys!” (They responded with), ‘Oh, no, we hate these guys.’ So I (thought), ‘Okay, so this is the Dodgers of the NL East,’ so I’ve had to adapt. I tried to bring on — hatred isn’t the right word — but that that deep down dislike for the Mets like I had for the Dodgers.
“I was just telling Jody (Jackson, of Bally Sports Arizona), playing against the Dodgers had a little less edge to it this year than it normally does. The Mets have definitely taken over. That’s our group over there that this team does not like.”
The Future for Archie Bradley
Philadelphia fans do not have a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. It is, instead, a “what have you done for me right now” mentality. “Two days ago, I threw two scoreless (innings) against the Dodgers in a big series. (We won) to keep us from getting swept, and it was great. I got cheered off the field. And then, like I said, I gave up a homer to lose the no-hitter, and I got booed, probably the hardest I’ve been booed in my life. And so it definitely keeps you in the moment and keeps you aware that you’re never as good or as bad as you think you are.”
Archie Bradley did not appear in Tuesday night’s game, although the team played him a video tribute before the first pitch. The 7,796 in attendance gave him a heartfelt ovation. Whether he appears Wednesday night, Thursday afternoon, or at all remains to be seen. It is safe to say, however, that he’ll get another appreciative ovation, showing that bonds in baseball are often long-lasting. Like Lovullo said July 31 after fan-favorite Eduardo Escobar was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, in baseball, it’s rarely “goodbye.” It’s “see you later.”
Archie Bradley, Clayton Kershaw, Pat Neshek, Jake Lamb, Daniel Descalso, Torey Lovullo, Chip Hale, Mike Bell, Andrew Chafin, Christian Walker, Ketel Marte, David Peralta, Nick Ahmed, Ronald Acuña, Bryce Harper, Eduardo Escobar