Brett Gardner was born on August 24th, 1983 in Holly Hill, South Carolina. He is now the starting left fielder for the New York Yankees but it always has not been this great. in 2001 Gardner attended walk on try out for the baseball team at his college, the College of Charleston. After the try outs the coach told his players that if they made the team then the coach would contact them to tell them so. Well Brett did not hear anything from the coach but attended the practice the next day anyway wearing his school uniform and when he was asked what he was going there he told the coach he knew that he was capable of playing Division I baseball. The coach must have been impressed because he allowed him to practice with the team with the promise that if he showed signs of not being able to cut it then his time with the team would end right then and there.
Gardner, in typical Gardner fashion, ended up being a three year starter at the College of Charleston and was chosen to the All Southern Conference team in 2004. In 2005 he had the third highest batting average in the country with a .447 average and 122 hits, tying for the most in the country. He also scored 85 runs, an all time record at the College of Charleston, and had 38 stolen bases to lead the Southern Conference. He also added a third team All American and a second time All Southern Conference player as a Senior.
After his junior year in college he was drafted by the New York Yankees in the third round of the 2005 First Year Player Draft and received a $210,000 signing bonus. After signing he was immediately sent to the Yankees short season league, the New York Penn League. While there he ranked 5th in at bats, 2nd in runs, and 5th in stolen bases. He followed that up in 2006 with a Florida State League all start appearance while with the Yankees A affiliate the Tampa Yankees. He was 3rd in the Florida State League in batting average and led the league in stolen bases with 30 swipes. Gardner was also second in walks with 47 that season. Gardner had similar success when called up to AA Trenton before he suffered a broken bone in his hand and continued the success when promoted to AAA Scranton Wilkes Barre.
I would call 2007 his break out season and coming out party as a Yankees prospect though because, while in the Arizona Fall League, he played 26 games and led the entire league in runs and stolen bases while bolstering a .343 batting average and a .433 on base percentage. He also was 3rd in the league in walks with 17. During the 2007 season he was named the Yankees 12th best prospect and was named the Yankees fastest minor league runner and one with the best plate discipline. 2008 would be his final season in the Yankees minor league season, playing in 94 games for Scranton, while compiling the 2nd best OBP, walk total, triples and a 6th place finish in stolen bases in the International League. Gardner was called up on June 30th of the 2008 season but sent down the very next month in July to make room for the newly acquired Xavier Nady. No worries though because in August of 2008 he was called back up to the Yankees where he has remained ever since.
Gardner was actually the one, Trivia Alert!!, to score the final run in Yankee Stadium of ANY player when he pinch ran for Jason Giambi and scored on a sacrifice fly by Robinson Cano. Gardner has been a Yankees full time starter since beating out Melky Cabrera for the starting Center Field spot in the Spring of the 2009 season. The acquisition of Curtis Granderson has since moved Gardner to LF where he has won the Fielding Bible Award for the best defensive Left Fielder in the 2010 season. Gardner finished the 2011 season tied for first place in stolen bases and that was without Joe Girardi giving him the green light to steal whenever he wanted to. Gardner also won his second consecutive Fielding Bible Award in 2011 and is looking for the three peat in 2012.
Off the field Brett is married to his wife, Jessica, and have a son named Hunter. Hunter was born on November 19th, 2008. Brett Gardner's father, Jerry Gardner, played in the minor leagues for the Phillies and Brett also has an older brother who to the best of my knowledge is not pursuing any baseball activities. Gardner lives in, as recent as 2011, Westchester New York and is neighbors with New York Mets starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey.
Make sure to tune into the blog tomorrow when we continue our Meet A Prospect special edition series and we meet Yankees back stop Russell Martin.