Turlock lost an athletic pioneer on Saturday when Brad Lesley died of kidney failure at the age of 54 in Marina Del Rey.
Known for his combination of talent and enthusiasm, Lesley made a name for himself both on the baseball mound and in the movies. After graduating from Turlock High, the man known as the "Animal" was drafted out of Merced College by the Cincinnati Reds in the first round. When his baseball career came to an end in 1987—54 games over three seasons with Cincinnati and the Milwaukee Brewers and two seasons in Japan—Lesley landed on the silver screen where he appeared in such movies as "Space Jam," "Little Big League," and "Mr. Baseball."
Current Turlock High head coach Mark de la Motte remembers Lesley’s days as a Bulldog, as well as the excitement from the community when he became only the second Turlocker at the time to make it to the big show.
“He was obviously born with a God given great arm and was strong as could be,” de la Motte said. “It was neat, not quite on the scale of Kaepernick, but it was real exciting. Turlock was a lot smaller then, so it was a very big deal.”
Though his aggression and propensity for on-field celebrations have come to define his time with Major League Baseball, he is more often remembered in Turlock as being a fun loving, respectable, and involved person. He would often visit Turlock, where his mother still lived, to help out Turlock’s baseball program.
“Even after he was done playing he would come out and work with us. It was great for our players,” de la Motte said. “He didn’t big league anybody; he treated everybody the same.”
Lesley’s last visit to Turlock came in 2006 when he threw out the first pitch in Turlock’s centennial baseball game. It is unknown if he was suffering from any kidney complications then, but it was reported that he spent the past seven months receiving dialysis in a nursing home.
“I couldn’t believe it; it was a shock,” de la Motte said of the news of Lesley’s passing. “I thought about the times he’d come into town and drop by unannounced just to say hey.
“He was full of life and enjoyed every minute of it.”