Enrique Bradfield Jr. had a lot on his plate in his last semester of college.
He was managing a full course load and a rigorous baseball schedule, on top of the pressure of being a top prospect in the MLB draft.
But when he got a text that Will, a boy he knew through HopeKids, was having a rough day after a round of treatments, Bradfield dropped everything. They talked for over an hour, Bradfield doing everything he could to boost Will’s spirits.
“Those kids give me perspective, that I should be very grateful and cherish everything I’m doing because those are young children who are battling for their life every day,” Bradfield said. “They don’t know that they are helping me as well.”
Bradfield, who was selected 17th overall by the Orioles in the draft, began working with HopeKids this year. He was already well known in Nashville, Tennessee, for his dynamic playing style, but he wanted to make a bigger impact on the community.
HopeKids works with families with children who have a life-threatening medical condition, providing events for the entire family. The Middle Tennessee chapter — one of seven across the country — partnered last year with Vanderbilt athletics’ Anchor Down, which allows players to use their name, image and likeness to give back to local charities.
When Bradfield heard about HopeKids, he knew it was the organization for him. He remembers how much he looked up to older athletes when he was a kid, and he wanted to help children going through unimaginable pain.
Bradfield’s first event was at Topgolf. Now, he may be good at swinging a bat, but that doesn’t mean he knows how to hit a golf ball.
He failed. Many times. But the kids, who were just as bad as he was, loved it.
Later that day, Bradfield sat on the couch next to Grayson, a 7-year-old who was undergoing chemotherapy. They bonded over Grayson’s toy shark, talking and laughing.
Two weeks later, Grayson finished his last round of treatment. Bradfield immediately sent him a message, telling Grayson how proud he was.
“It was just a really cool thing to watch this kid, who is obviously going to make it big, have just such a heart and be so humble around families who he knows are going through so much,” said Leslie Murphy, the program manager for the Middle Tennessee chapter. “He was able to dedicate his time and become friends with our HopeKid.”
Bradfield continued his work with HopeKids throughout his last semester at Vanderbilt, calling in when he could as the baseball season picked up intensity. He even took a moment during the MLB combine — an important event to show off in front of scouts — to meet with kids in attendance.
It will be harder to stay involved with HopeKids as he begins his professional career — but he plans to remain connected as much as he can.
“He’s such a special kid with such a big heart,” Murphy said. “He’s going to do great things not only on the baseball field but in his community and in the world around him. He has such a heart for kids and making a difference.”