Words by Terrell Manasco |Image by Blakeney Clouse
Inside Matt Bradshaw’s office off Industrial Drive, two autographed baseballs in display cases sit atop a metal filing cabinet. One bears the scrawl of Boston Red Sox 2018 MVP Steve Pearce, the other of Boston pitcher and Huntsville native Craig Kimbrel. Behind them stands a retro-style canvas sign reading Fenway Park. Hanging inside a nearby closet is a No. 15 Dustin Pedroia jersey. Matt, a Manufacturing Skill Standards Council Instructor (MSSC) at Bevill State Community College, even named his 2-year-old son Beckett after former pitcher Josh Beckett.
Matt’s love for the Red Sox was born in 2003 when he tuned in to watch the American League Championship Series. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox were each vying for a shot at the World Series. Boston lost four out of seven games, but they won a new fan. “I was hooked,” Matt says.
The next year, the Red Sox came back and won the World Series, ending the mythical “Curse of the Bambino,” an 86-year winning drought said to have begun in 1919 when Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees. They followed up with Series wins in 2007, 2013, and 2018.
In 2018, Matt received an early Christmas present—tickets for Game 1 of the World Series. “My wife, Ashlyn, said I really was like a kid on Christmas morning,” he says. “It was 40 degrees, rainy and windy, but my adrenaline was flowing so much that I wasn’t even cold.”
But Fenway Park wasn’t the only thing that impressed Matt. He had been awed by the city’s response to the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, but as he toured the city he noted its devotion to the Red Sox team. “The way they came together after [the bombing] was powerful,” Matt recalls. “I was going through the Leather District, which is the professional buildings, and there’s people in suit, ties, and Boston caps, walking around downtown. Just seeing a whole city get behind a team like that is incredible.”
When both parents of a friend were diagnosed with terminal cancer, Matt helped send the family to Boston. It was their last family trip before the mother passed away. “The Red Sox gave them a tour and announced their names,” Matt says. “This year, on the anniversary of her passing, they sent the husband a gift pack of autographs, infield dirt, and stickers. That helped me become an even bigger fan.”
On one trip, Matt visited the Hingham Shipyard, the site of the original Wahlburgers restaurant. There he apparently impressed co-owner and reality TV star Paul Wahlberg with his passion for the Red Sox. “He was like, ‘You came all the way from Alabama for one game?’” Matt says.
For this passionate Red Sox fan, it was well worth the trip. 78