Houston Astros were in high spirits, gathered together in a jubilant huddle onstage, relishing their recent triumph as the 2022 World Series champions. Amidst all the excitement, the Commissioner’s Trophy swiftly found its way into Michael Brantley’s hands, thanks to his determined teammates.
Looking at Brantley amidst the joyful grins spoke volumes. After a long and emotional career spanning 1,430 Major League games, he had finally earned his cherished World Series ring.
Despite being sidelined after June 26 of that unforgettable season due to a fourth shoulder surgery, Brantley’s teammates insisted that he be at the center of the celebration. They recognized the significant role he played in their victorious journey. Brantley, often seen as the team’s moral guide, provided valuable guidance not just in hitting techniques but also in various aspects on and off the field
Reflecting on that special night in a recent interview, Brantley recalled, “My teammates putting me at the forefront, asking me to lift the trophy – it still gives me goosebumps. It’s a memory I’ll cherish forever.”
This triumph solidified Brantley’s status as one of the most revered players of his era. It’s hard to imagine a more fulfilling legacy.
As Brantley steps into retirement, he looks back on a distinguished career spanning ten seasons with Cleveland and five with Houston, where he maintained an impressive .298 batting average.
“Now it’s time for me to prioritize being a dad,” shared the five-time All-Star outfielder. “I want to be there 24/7 for my young kids, witnessing their milestones and being a part of their growth.”
Not only will he be observing from the sidelines, but Brantley is also diving into coaching Little League for Michael III, 8, and Maxwell, 6, his youngest children among four.
Laughing at his sons’ varied reactions to his new coaching role, Brantley shared, “Michael is okay with it, but Maxwell absolutely loves it.”
Brantley’s retirement comes at the perfect juncture; he played long enough for his children to cherish memories of his time on the field while exiting the game early enough to enjoy a fulfilling coaching career in Little League.
“I loved having my kids around the locker room, watching me train in the offseason, and visiting different Major League stadiums,” Brantley recalled fondly, relishing the shared experiences similar to those he had with his father.
Growing up in the baseball world — with his father, Mickey Brantley, a former Seattle Mariners player — Michael credits their father-son hitting sessions for his deep baseball knowledge, which continued until his final at-bats in the Majors.
In a significant moment during the 2023 regular season against the Mariners, Mickey was there to observe Michael, offering crucial feedback for the player’s return from a challenging shoulder surgery.
“It was a tough journey, and I had to really work on my swing,” Brantley shared. “I needed his guidance to get back in form.”
His hard work paid off when, after missing eight consecutive games due to his shoulder, Brantley returned to the lineup on Sept. 27. His triumphant four-hit performance against the Mariners highlighted his skill, securing a pivotal win for the Astros.
Despite falling short of a third successive World Series appearance in 2023, Brantley left an indelible mark. In the Division Series against the Twins, his crucial home run off Joe Ryan made headlines.
“Contributing at that moment was huge for me,” Brantley confessed. “I didn’t want to celebrate just yet, but it felt amazing inside. José Abreu’s homer sealed the win. I am thankful to my teammates, coaches, and the medical staff for giving me that chance.”
Following the Astros’ exit in the American League Championship Series, Brantley expressed gratitude to his teammates for their unwavering support throughout his five seasons in Houston. Deep down, he sensed that this might have been his final Major League game.
“I didn’t have to contemplate much,” Brantley said, reflecting on his decision. “I’d been discussing it with my family for a while. It was a long season, and having my family with me during the playoffs meant a lot. That night, it was all about embraces and gratitude.”
Joining Houston in 2018 based on recommendations from friends George Springer and Joe Smith, Brantley aimed for yearly victories. True to his ambition, the Astros secured postseason berths every season of his tenure.
A regular fixture in October, Brantley participated in four postseason runs in Cleveland. He returned after shoulder surgery to make All-Star appearances in ’17 and ’18 before moving to Houston.
Grateful for his decade-long tenure in Cleveland, where he debuted in 2009 following a trade, Brantley fondly reminisces about his first All-Star Game experience in 2014 when he mustered the courage to ask Derek Jeter for a picture. “He signed it for me,” Brantley beamed. “That picture is hanging in my office.”
Having played under Terry Francona and Dusty Baker, both revered managers, Brantley sees similarities in how they supported their players while fostering top-tier competition.
Now, as Brantley looks to coaching, he cherishes the personal moments spent with the Commissioner’s Trophy on November 5, 2022, especially celebrating the victory with his family in the dugout.
“I had my family beside me that night, celebrating with the trophy,” Brantley reminisced. “I didn’t touch it until we won it. That moment was incredibly special.
A chapter concludes as Brantley exits the baseball diamond. He sought success and achieved it.Now, transitioning into the role of a mentor, his legacy lives on, not just in his exceptional baseball career but also in the memories and future ambitions of the young aspiring players he’ll coach, perpetuating the spirit of ‘Dr. Smooth.’