Radley Haddad had spent 3½ seasons as a minor leaguer in the New York Yankees organization, and he sensed his playing days were coming to a close.
The 27-year-old Columbus native reported to spring training as a player and was playing in games and taking batting practice when Yankees minor league catching coordinator Josh Paul pulled him aside and told him the team’s bullpen catching job was open and that he’d help Haddad get it if he wanted the position.
So with 10 days left in spring training, Haddad stopped taking BP and started catching in the bullpen and throwing BP, which is one of responsibilities of the bullpen catcher. But with just a couple of days left before the regular season was to start, Haddad’s future still was uncertain.
Haddad traveled with the team to Atlanta to open the Braves’ new ballpark in the final game of spring training. Since he hadn’t hit in 10 days, he almost didn’t pack his spikes.
When they got to Atlanta, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stopped Haddad in the hallway, and asked, “Did you bring your spikes with you?” “Yeah, sure I did,” Haddad replied.
During the game, Haddad was catching in the bullpen when the phone rang. The bullpen coach told him to go to dugout and take his bat. He was going to get one final at bat — this time in a major league stadium against a major league team.
Haddad ended up grounding out. But he was thankful for the gesture from Girardi.
“He kind of shook my hand and said ‘Thanks for everything you’ve done. Thanks for making the transition over to the other side,'” Haddad said. “He didn’t have to do that. It was an awesome moment for him to give me an at bat. It was kind of a last hurrah for me as a player. It was pretty incredible.”
Haddad spent most of his first 10 years in Columbus before moving to Carmel with his family. His father Bob Haddad Jr. is chief operating officer of Harrison Lake Country Club.
The younger Haddad played at Brebeuf Jesuit High School, then at Butler University before signing with the Yankees in June 2013.
The next 3 1/2 years, Haddad bounced around between Staten Island (Single-A short season) to Tampa (Single-A Advanced) to Charleston, New York, (Single-A Full Season). He had one at bat last season with Double-A Trenton.
In all, Haddad played in 92 minor league games and batted .203 with one home run and 23 RBIs.
“Minor leagues is a different animal,” Haddad said. “It’s different than college baseball. It’s different than high school baseball. I have a lot of appreciation for the game and how people are evaluated.”
Haddad was signed the same year as current rookie Aaron Judge and played with him in 2015 at Tampa. Judge leads the major leagues in home runs and won last week’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game. The pair remain friends and had dinner together on an off day the Thursday before the All-Star break.
Now, Haddad helps prepare scouting reports and is one of three main guys that pitch batting practice to Judge and the rest of the Yankees.
“Right now, I’m just learning as much as I can,” Haddad said. “I’m fortunate to be around a lot of smart guys. Joe Girardi is one of the best managers in the game, and Larry Rothschild is a great pitching coach. I really am lucky. It’s been incredible to sit back and hear what they have to say. I’ve learned a lot that you don’t know when you’re in the minor leagues.”
Haddad made spring training appearances with baseball’s most storied franchise the past three years. He had a choice this year to be a player/coach in Class A or be the bullpen catcher with the major league club and chose the latter.
As it turned out, Haddad and the Yankees were on the same page, and Haddad thinks the results have worked out great.
“It was tough to stop playing,” Haddad said. “I could still have played in the minor leagues somewhere, but this was a something I couldn’t pass up. I put 15 to 20 years into preparing and working my hardest to play at the highest level that I could. A lot of people when they quit playing want to know they got the most out of their talent, and I think I did.”
Name: Radley Haddad
High school: Brebeuf Jesuit
Occupation: Bullpen catcher for New York Yankees