Brantley seeks advice from former big leaguer dad
Left-handed batter's attempts at switch-hitting not met with approval
CLEVELAND -- There was a time years ago when a young Michael Brantley contemplated becoming a switch-hitter. With his dad watching, Brantley moved to the other side of the plate and tried his hand at batting from the right side.
"It was the ugliest swing I'd seen in a long time," Mickey Brantley said with a laugh. "I told him to stay lefty."
The Indians might want to send the elder Brantley a thank you card this Father's Day.
These days, Michael Brantley sports a smooth left-handed swing as Cleveland's starting left fielder. Over the past few years, the outfielder has developed into a steady hitter capable of handling any spot in the lineup. Brantley is quick to credit his dad -- a former big league player and coach -- for the lessons learned throughout his youth.
Having a former player for a father had its advantages for Brantley when he was beginning his own life in baseball. Mickey Brantley's influence did not stop when Michael entered the professional ranks though. They still talk frequently, whether through text messages or phone calls, and Mickey still offers advice when he spots a flaw in his son's swing or approach at the plate.
Michael Brantley appreciates any feedback his dad has to offer.
"He's always been there for me. He's always been in my corner," Brantley said. "It's a valuable asset that I have and am lucky to use. We talk almost every day. He'll text me, whether it's a good day or a bad day. Maybe it's, 'Hey, call me after the game. I've got something for you.' Just little things. I feel like he knows my swing best.
"We've been working on this swing for 26 years. He's seen it for 26 years. Any little adjustments that I need to make or anything he suggests, I have to try it."
A parent weighing in does not always go over well in a Major League environment.
With the Brantleys, however, the Indians do not mind the extra input. Cleveland manager Terry Francona said that Mickey Brantley's advice has never interfered with the work Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo is doing with the younger Brantley. If anything, Brantley's dad provides his son with suggestions that Van Burkleo can take into consideration.
"His dad has been a big influence on him," Francona said. "I mean that in the good way, because that's not always the case. But he looks up to his dad a lot for guidance. I think there's a real comfort zone there. [Michael Brantley] pulls it off in a way where he incorporates it with Ty. We've all seen those instances where [a parent offering advice] is not good."
It helps that Mickey Brantley has a big league resume.
The 51-year-old Mickey Brantley -- whose given name is Michael Brantley Sr. -- played 10 professional seasons, including spending parts of four campaigns with the Mariners from 1986-89. Junior was born in 1987, when Mickey hit .302 with 14 home runs and 54 RBIs in 92 games for Seattle. After his playing career ended, Mickey Brantley had various coaching jobs, including serving as the hitting coach for the Blue Jays during the 2005-07 seasons.
Michael Brantley did not inherit his dad's power, but he does now boast the family-record for RBIs in one season (60 last season for Cleveland). Over the 2010-12 seasons, Michael also improved each year in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage as he grew into an everyday player for the Tribe. Through 61 games this season, he was hitting .286 with two homers, eight doubles and 26 RBIs for the Indians.
Francona has already used Brantley in all nine lineup spots.
"He's a pleasure, man," Francona said. "You can hit him eighth one day, hit him cleanup one day, hit him seventh one day. He just goes out, gets a couple hits and plays a good left field. You just kind of wind him up and let him go."
Mickey Brantley never wanted his son to feel forced into playing baseball, but that was never an issue for Michael, who tried a variety of sports through his youth.
"He loved baseball," Mickey Brantley said. "He loved any sport, pretty much. Baseball, golf, soccer, basketball, football -- the whole nine yards. He was a good athlete. Anything he chose to do, I was there for him and supportive."
Well, almost anything.
"I tried switch-hitting, but he stopped me," Michael Brantley said. "He told me my right-handed swing was so ugly that I had no chance."