Photo by Jordan Megenhardt
By Greg Dillard
He was faced with a daunting decision.
Archie Bradley, a two-sport star at Broken Arrow High School, needed to decide between football and baseball. Bradley committed to the University of Oklahoma football team as a quarterback, and was drafted seventh overall by Arizona in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Presented with a pair of attractive offers, he had to choose between joining a supremely talented Sooner squad or embarking on a journey to the Major Leagues.
In the end, Bradley joined the D-backs.
The talented pitcher inked a contract with the organization near the August 15 signing deadline. After weeks of deliberation and thought, Bradley simply could not pass up the opportunity to play professional baseball.
“The whole decision came down to my first love and that’s baseball,” Bradley said. “I just feel like with where I’m at talent-wise and what the Diamondbacks can do to help me out, it’s just a matter of time before I’m in the big leagues. That was the ultimate driving factor.”
The 2011 First-Year Player Draft was a marquee one for the D-backs’ organization. The team held the Nos. 3 and 7 picks in the first round. Those picks were deemed ultra-valuable,given the abundant talent and depth in this year’s draft.
Arizona’s brass selected UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer at No. 3 before snagging the highly touted Bradley four spots later.
“We are ecstatic Archie is an Arizona Diamondback,” Senior Vice President of Scouting & Player Development Jerry Dipoto said. “This negotiation was the final piece of our plan for the 2011 draft, and we are thrilled we were able to complete the deal. We are extremely pleased with the talent we signed and consider this to be a very successful draft.”
The new D-backs prospect enters the professional baseball world just months after completing one of the most successful careers in Oklahoma high school history. Bradley entered his final season at Broken Arrow with plenty of hype and expectations. Following a solid junior season, he was selected to the AFLAC All-America roster. He was then chosen as a pre-season All-America selection by Louisville Slugger heading into his final school year.
His stellar senior campaign cemented him as one of baseball’s best draft prospects. The right-hander struck out 137 batters in 71.1 innings pitched while posting a 12-1 record with a minute 0.29 ERA. Bradley and the Tigers earned a No. 1 ranking in the nation and claimed the Oklahoma 6A Championship.
“Baseball-wise, my last school year couldn’t have gone any more textbook,” Bradley said. “We came in nationally ranked. We lost two games all season. We won a state championship. We were national champions. I got drafted. If you ask any kid how he wanted his high school season to go, I’m pretty sure it would go along the lines the way mine went.”
Bradley was also nearly unstoppable at the plate with his .395 batting average. He led his team with nine home runs and 31 RBI. Following his stellar senior year, The Oklahoman chose Bradley as the All-State Baseball Player of the Year. He received Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State team honors while also being selected to play in the Oklahoma Coaches Association’s All-State Large School Baseball Game.
Whether it was propelling his team to a state championship or dominating on the mound and in the batter’s box, Bradley created a plethora of baseball memories during his final year in school. But perhaps the one that he’ll remember the longest occurred away from the diamond.
“The thing I remember most, which may come as a little surprise, is every gameday all of the varsity team would meet at the donut store to eat breakfast together,” Bradley said. “That’s something I’ll remember for a long time, the morning breakfasts.”
The baseball field wasn’t the only field in which Bradley starred on during high school. Bradley was a quick-footed, strong-armed signal caller for the Tigers. In 2009, he threw for 1,667 passing yards and 21 touchdowns.
Bradley is thrilled to take his baseball career to the next level, but giving up football was far from an easy decision.
“My brother is a sophomore on the team I just graduated from,” Bradley said. “I miss it tremendously. I miss it a ton. The good thing about is I know deep down inside that baseball is the thing I really want to do. Although I’m going to miss it, it was a sacrifice that I was willing to make.”
The right-hander has kept busy since the completion of his senior season and the weeks following the MLB draft.
“I took two weeks off and then after that I’ve been playing catch,” Bradley said. “I’ve been mixing in a little football just in case because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’ve been throwing bullpens, simulated games, working out and conditioning, everything to try to prepare myself for when I’d get out here.”
Bradley’s first assignment as a D-back was to report to Scottsdale at the organization’s Spring Training facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bradley said. “After traveling to some other ballparks, it’s by far and away better than anything anyone else’s in the big leagues.”
While in Scottsdale, Bradley wanted to “get his feet wet” and develop a professional routine. He did so by working out, conditioning and throwing bullpen sessions at the facility.
Although he anticipated that he’d participate in the Arizona Instructional League, Bradley found himself on his way to Rookie level Missoula instead. It’s there where he’s likely to finish off a whirlwind of a summer. Bradley then hopes to earn an invite to big league camp in Spring Training before starting his first full season in the Minor Leagues.
Ideally, the highly driven Bradley would like to start next season pitching for Single-A South Bend or High-A Visalia. If all goes well, he believes he’d then earn a promotion to Double-A Mobile near the All-Star break.
“Hopefully, I get a call up sometime in 2013,” Bradley said. “That’s what I have in my head, and I think it’s pretty realistic.”
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