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As reporters clicked into their scheduled Zoom call with Enrique Bradfield Jr. on Monday morning, they saw the Vanderbilt centerfielder already there, waiting for them.
Bradfield was eager to get his session started, just as he couldn’t wait for Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias call to congratulate him on being the 17th selection in the Major League Baseball draft, and the Orioles’ first on Sunday. He called Elias first.
“My agent actually sent me over his number, so I took that as, ‘hey, let me give him a call,”’ Bradfield said. “I went ahead, dialed the phone and gave him a call.”
Bradfield’s name wasn’t linked with the Orioles until the final moments before he was drafted. Some mock drafts had the Orioles taking players who weren’t available by the time they picked.
It was a surprise for the Orioles that Bradfield was there. Sportsbetting.ag had Bradfield as the 11th most likely player to be selected first.
“It was a team I didn’t speak to much in my process,” Bradfield said. “Maybe my agent did, but I hadn’t been in contact with, so it definitely came as a shock, but it was meant to be. I am where I need to be. I’m glad the Orioles gave me the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to getting to work with them.”
Bradfield is from Hialeah, Florida and played on a youth team in South Florida with Coby Mayo, the Orioles’ infielder just promoted to Triple-A Norfolk.
“He reached out to me last night,” Bradfield said. “I saw the tweet of the picture of us when we were 11. It was pretty cool. I definitely was happy to see that.”
Mayo is one of many recent Oriole draft picks who’ve excelled in the minors, and Bradfield can’t wait to join them.
“I’m excited. Watching the Orioles in the big leagues right now, they have a bunch of young guys out there who are playing really good baseball and are really talented players,” Bradfield said. “They’re all homegrown players. The fact that the organization can really develop guys gives me a level of excitement to go in there and know I’m going to get better every day and get to work. That’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
Two Oriole greats, Cal Ripken Jr. and Adam Jones, tweeted their congratulations.
“It’s special, especially for a guy like that to just congratulate a 21-year-old like me,” Bradfield said. “They’ve been legends in the sport. Cal Ripken is somebody who’s done something that nobody else has been able to do. Adam Jones is the legend. I remember watching his highlights from the  World Baseball Classic and robbing home runs and making plays in center field. That’s where I see myself being in a couple of years at that level.”
As teams made their picks, Bradfield became more nervous.
“It was a lot of emotions, especially for my family, just being there, waiting, getting phone calls, trying to see what was going to be the best decision for me,” he said. “That was probably the most stressful part of the night,” Bradfield said. “Something I’ve been waiting for my whole life.”
Bradfield is confident he’s ready for the rigors of pro ball.
“The game is fast,” he said. “The game is fast at every level. High school baseball definitely isn’t near what college or professional baseball is. It’s an adjustment. There’s always going to a brief adjustment period.
“I’m prepared to go in there, make sure I do everything in my power to make sure I’m ready, but I also have experiences of struggles, failures, but I also do have the successes that are going to help me carry on and get me where I need to get. I definitely think it’s using my past experiences, reflecting on them and helping them take me forward.”
On Sunday night, Elias said that once Bradfield takes a physical and signs, he’ll likely spend the rest of the 2023 season at the Florida Complex League and Single-A Delmarva.
“I have no concerns about going up to the next level and not having success,” Bradfield said. “I’ve been able to adapt to every level I’ve been at and be able to produce. I feel like this one’s going to be no different.”
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