Only 12 years ago, Major League All-Star Carl Crawford was an outstanding all-around athlete at Jefferson Davis High School in Houston. Early in his senior year, Crawford signed a letter-of-intent to become the next great option quarterback for Coach Frank Solich at the University of Nebraska.
Fate intervened, however, when Crawford was selected in the 2nd round of the 1999 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He accepted a lucrative signing bonus and left football behind for what has become a lucrative baseball career – he recently signed a seven-year, $142 million free agent contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Will Broken Arrow (Okla.) High School two-sport standout Archie Bradley have a similar tale to tell one day?
Bradley, an 18-year-old right-hander who Perfect Game has ranked the No. 3 top national prospect in the high school class of 2011, is projected by PG to be the No. 8 overall pick in the 1st round of June’s MLB Draft.
That could mean big money for Bradley. Delino DeShields Jr. was the No. 8 overall pick by the Houston Astros in the 2010 Draft and received a $2.15 million signing bonus.
But Bradley, like Crawford, has signed a LOI to play quarterback at another giant in the college football world, the University of Oklahoma. Sooners’ football coach Bob Stoops and OU baseball coach Sunny Golloway have assured Bradley he could be a member of both teams in Norman if he decides to forgo professional baseball in 2011.
“It’s just a constant mind-battle for me every day. I change my mind every day on what I think I’m going to do,” Bradley said in a recent telephone conversation with Perfect Game. “In the end, what it comes down to is what’s really best for me. Me and my family have started to put a plan together of pros and cons, and possible scenarios of things that can happen and which route we will choose.
“We’re trying to collect the most information we can from anyone that can give us some little bit of advice that we think is worth something, and put it all into one and hopefully make the best decision.”
A player’s personality and his life-long ambitions come into play in these decisions more often than not. Sometimes, a young athlete wants the college experience. Sometimes, money simply isn’t the most important thing.
Right-hander Karsten Whitson was taken by the San Diego Padres ninth overall in the 2010 Draft and turned down a reported $2.1 million signing bonus. Today he is pitching collegiately for the No. 4-ranked Florida Gators.
Bradley passed for nearly 2,000 yards and nearly 30 TDs in 2010, leading the Broken Arrow football team to a 9-3 record. He passed for 3,623 yards and more than 45 touchdowns in two years as the Tigers’ starting quarterback. He obviously caught the eye of OU recruiters.
But now it’s baseball season and Bradley’s senior campaign is off to a rousing start.
No. 4 ranked nationally, Broken Arrow stood 13-1 before a scheduled game at Union High School on March 29, a game Bradley was penciled-in to start. The Tigers’ only loss came on their recently completed spring-break trip to Winter Haven, Fla., where they were beaten by Winter Haven High School left-hander Tyler Pike, ranked 101st nationally by Perfect Game.
Bradley (4-0) was brilliant in his first four starts of the young season and allowed only one earned run in 25 1/3 innings (0.28 ERA). He gave up 11 hits – he pitched a no-hitter in his first start and combined on another no-no in his third start – struck out 21, walked six and hit four batters.
“I’ve been throwing a lot of strikes and throwing it where (the batters) can’t hit it, so I guess I’m doing my job,” he said. “Team-wise, I don’t think you could ask for a much better start. In Perfect Game we’re ranked high, in the other national rankings we’re ranked high, and in the state we’re No. 1. As far as I can see everything is rolling right along where it should be.”
Scouts have been flocking to Broken Arrow’s games to watch Bradley and fellow BA right-hander Mason Hope pitch for the Tigers. And it’s conceivable every scout in the region could be in Owasso, Okla., on April 15 to watch Broken Arrow take on No. 3 Owasso, especially if Bradley went head-to-head- with Owasso’s Dylan Bundy, a righty ranked No. 5 nationally by PG.
Bradley, who is 6-4, 225-pounds, said he came into the season feeling as good as he ever has.
“That’s the biggest thing translating from football to baseball is getting into baseball shape, because it’s completely different when you’re talking about the different strength you put on your body for baseball,” he said. “I made that a real big thing for me, to make sure I was in the best shape I could be in going into the season. And as far as mechanically, I’m feeling perfect.”
Broken Arrow head coach Shannon Dobson marvels at his standout right-hander.
“He’s a guy – you just don’t get very many of those guys at this level that come along,” Dobson said in a preseason conversation with PG. “Archie is a guy that is going to be a workhorse for us, and if he does what he’s supposed to do, he’s going to have an opportunity to maybe go high in the (MLB) Draft.
“You don’t usually see a guy that can go two sports at that high of level,” he continued. “He’s the type of athlete that can play at the Division I level in both sports.”
Bradley has attended several Perfect Game events since 2008 and pitched in the prestigious Aflac All-American Classic in San Diego last August. PG clocked his fastball at 95 mph during the Aflac game.
He certainly appreciates his association with Perfect Game.
“Everything about it has been beneficial,” Bradley said. “I played in the (PG WWBA World Championship), and every time I’ve done something affiliated with Perfect Game, it’s been nothing but high class. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
Bradley is not selling himself short when he talks about the Draft. He’s seen the national rankings and the projections, and tries to use those as motivation.
“I look at where I am, and I don’t want to be just the best high school arm in the Draft, I want to be the best overall arm in the Draft – college, high school, international, where ever you can pick from,” he said. “I just use that as a motivation – what can I do on a daily basis to set me apart from everyone else. What am I going to shoot for today to be that first pick; to be that best arm in the country?”
It’s difficult to discern which way Bradley is leaning – pros or college – at this point in the discussion and it probably won’t become any more discernable anytime soon. But whether you’re 18 or eight, the lure of someday becoming a big-league ballplayer is definitely appealing.
“Every little kid dreams about playing Major League baseball and that’s been one of my dreams,” Bradley said. “If things go as planned, I hope to be a 1st-rounder (and) one of the top 10 picks, because how many people can say that?
“At the same time … if anything, I just hope to be picked at all. Not many people are given that chance, and the journey doesn’t end when you’re drafted. It’s what you do after that and in the big leagues.”