After surviving a tragic car accident that killed two of his teammates, centerfielder Zac Bradley ’06 resumed his role as the Yale baseball team’s premier base bandit this weekend.
As a freshman in the 2002 season, Bradley led the Bulldogs in bases stolen and was second in on-base percentage. Last season, all indicators pointed to Bradley having an equally solid spring.
But all that changed on Jan. 17, 2003. While returning in the early morning from a Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity event in New York City, the car Bradley was traveling in crashed into a tractor-trailer. The impact killed four Yalies, including Eli ballplayers Nicholas Grass ’05 and Kyle Burnat ’05, and left Bradley with both emotional and physical injuries. He missed the entire 2003 season.
“I think losing four of his friends plus a whole year of baseball hurt [Bradley] greatly,” catcher Eric Rasmussen ’06 said. “He lost so many friends in the accident and it was really tough on him.”
A year later, Bradley is neither slower nor less crafty than he was his freshman year.
In Friday’s first game against Princeton, Bradley played his first Ivy game since the accident and made his teammates realize exactly how much they had missed him. In the seventh inning, with the score tied 1-1 and bases loaded, Bradley stole home on a 1-1 pitch to left fielder C.J. Orrico ’05 to give Yale the 2-1 win.
“The game [against Princeton] was a thrill,” Bradley said. “It was the most intense thing I’ve ever been a part of, and it was really just a lot of fun.”
Bradley has stolen three bases this season, third on the team despite missing eight games. He has acted primarily as a pinch runner but has become the team’s go-to guy in a variety of tasks.
“He does all the little things that we ask him to do,” designated hitter Pedro Obregon ’07 said. “Whether it’s a hit and run, or squeeze, or bunt a guy over, he does all the things that you don’t read about in the paper.”
In Sunday’s second game against Cornell, Bradley was involved in the first run to put the Elis on the scoreboard and the last run to ensure the victory. He scored in the first inning off of a hit from first baseman Marc Sawyer ’07. Later in the eighth inning, Bradley had his first RBI of the season, bringing in Rasmussen for an insurance run.
Still, it takes more than a year to fully recover from the physical and emotional aftereffects of such a tragedy. Bradley bats just .167 and has an on-base percentage of only .259.
“There’s still some days where certain actions still hurt,” Bradley said. “My recovery is just an on-going process and dealing with it day-to-day.”
To his teammates, Bradley’s dedication is what impresses them.
“He’s gone through a lot, and he’s still not completely healthy,” Obregon said. “But he’s still out there everyday, and I think that says a lot about his character.”
Bradley’s biggest contribution to the team, however, may be his enthusiasm both on and off the field.
“[Bradley] brings a lot of energy to our team, which we didn’t have last year,” Rasmussen said. “Whether it’s on the field or on the bench, he’s getting guys up and getting everyone excited to play.”
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