OMAHA, Neb. -- Several of South Carolina's players spent Saturday evening, the night before their first game in the College World Series, writing notes.
They were writing letters to their dads, for Father's Day. The plan was to leave their fathers some thoughts, along with their tickets, at will call.
Jackie Bradley Sr. arrived at Rosenblatt Stadium on Sunday to receive his seats. Stashed inside the envelope, unexpectedly, were some words from his son.
Jackie Jr. told Jackie Sr. he was going to hit a home run for him. The son's words brought tears to the father's eyes.
And that was hours before the sophomore center fielder came through for his dad.
Bradley Jr. smoked a solo home run to right in a 2-for-4 night against Oklahoma, a 4-3 South Carolina loss.
He was just getting started. Bradley was 3 for 4 with an early three-run home run and four RBIs on Tuesday as South Carolina eliminated No. 1 overall seed Arizona State. He was on base all five times he stepped to the plate against the Sun Devils.
Bradley said he's seeing the ball as well as he has all season. But, really, what he's doing here is nothing new.
Bradley's first-inning single Tuesday, the at-bat before his second College World Series homer in as many days, extended his hit streak to 18 games.
In that streak, which dates back to May 11, Bradley had 33 hits in 72 at-bats (.458). He has six of his 13 home runs in that span, 26 of his 57 RBIs in the stretch.
Back to more recent events, Bradley is 5-for-8 with two home runs and six RBIs in two College World Series games.
On the biggest stage he's yet to take as a baseball player, Bradley is thriving.
"He's one of the better players we've played against," Arizona State coach Tim Esmay said, just after Bradley played such a key role in defeating his team. "And he's performing. He's performing at a high level right now, and kudos to that young man."
It's a treat to watch Bradley play, effortless in the field and at the plate. It's entertaining, too, to watch Bradley receive compliments such as Esmay's.
Now that causes Bradley to squirm. The kid who doesn't get uncomfortable playing baseball gets plenty uncomfortable when the attention is cast upon him off the field.
Off the dais, with the spotlight's glow at least dimmed, Bradley becomes honest about his own expectations.
"This is what I was expecting," Bradley said of this, his second season with the Gamecocks.
Hand injuries, a broken bone in one and a deep cut in another, slowed the promise of his year.
"Being hurt took a lot out of me," Bradley said, "emotionally and physically."
But that promise eventually arrived, both in emotion and physics.
It's not just that Bradley's success eventually got here; it's how he achieves success.
Bradley is quiet. He says he's always been that way.
It's one thing that drew Tanner to Bradley, when he recruited the talent from the Richmond, Va., suburb of Prince George.
With a national audience listening last week upon arrival here, Tanner was searching for just the right quip to sum up his team. Ultimately, Tanner illustrated what South Carolina is not to describe what it is.
"We're not the big and sexy team," Tanner said.
It's a funny way to put it, but it's a great way to describe Bradley, too. Bradley is unbelievably unassuming -- right up until you watch him hammer a ball into the right-field stands, like Sunday. Or watch him blast a ball into the left-center-field stands, like Monday.
Or see him track down a ball in the gap you think he's got no shot to catch. Or see him slink down the line to beat out a grounder, even though it appeared he'd been gunned by two steps.
He's deceiving, in so many ways, on a baseball field. But there's no deception in saying this is a talent that South Carolina will hold in esteem for years to come.
How many times have you heard Clemson coach Jack Leggett talk about a Gamecock in this regard? The list is short.
"He's one of the best players we've played against," Leggett said. "He's a very tough out. And he's one of those guys you really don't want to see come to the plate with the game on the line."
Follow the Gamecocks' progress in the College World Series at www.postandcourier.com/blogs/cws.