As Father’s Day rolls around each June, we often see many MLB players giving a tribute to their father, thanking him for not only being a wonderful father, but also for teaching them the game that they love. Brett Gardner’s father has played that same role in his life as well.
Growing up on a farm in Holly Hill, S.C., being surrounded by crops and cows, Gardner wasn’t thinking baseball. Instead, he was thinking of where he could plant his next vegetable. Luckily, he had his father expose him to the world of baseball, which gave him an opportunity to find his profound love.
Brett Gardner learned the game of baseball at a fairly young age from his father, Jerry Gardner. Jerry actually played in the minor leagues as an outfielder in the Phillies’ farm system in the mid 1970s, but injuries forced him to hang up the cleats rather early. While his baseball career was short lived, he was able to be a mentor to Brett as he was beginning his baseball career of his own.
Gardner graduated from the College of Charleston in 2005, and was the highest drafted player in school history. He always had speed, but the rest of his game wasn’t always up to par. When he tried out for the school’s baseball team as a non-scholarship freshman, he didn’t hear back from the coaching staff and wanted to just call it quits from there. His dad refused to let him do that. Jerry wrote a letter to head coach John Pawlowski, asking if Gardner could even just attend a practice with the team. Gardner took in everything he could with that opportunity, and finished the practice leaving an impression that left the staff puzzled as to why he didn’t make the team from the start. “I went from barely making the team, to pretty much being a sure bet to redshirt my freshman yea,r to playing in 38 games my freshman year,” Gardner told Bryan Hoch of mlb.com. “It all kind of came together relatively quickly.”
Now, as a starter for the New York Yankees, Brett would happily tell you that he can’t thank his father enough for writing that letter years ago, and believing in his baseball talent. Gardner now serves as one of the most productive players on the Yankees, both in the outfield and at the plate. After signing a large multi-year contract with the Yankees this past off-season, Yankees’ fans can agree that they are excited to see what Brett Gardner is going to continue to bring to the table.