By DJ Ramirez | Sports Writer
On a roster already filled with talented and experienced ball players, Baylor baseball junior pitcher Cody Bradford came to Waco as a freshman feeling like he was “behind the curve” both physically and mentally. But in the two years since he made his collegiate debut in 2017, Bradford has grown into a leading presence for the Bears on and off the field.
The Aledo native took the summer off after his freshman season to work on building up both his physical and mental strength and returned as a sophomore to record a breakout year as the Friday night starter. According to head coach Steve Rodriguez, the coaching staff knew the kind of talent Bradford had and had high expectations for him.
“He’s an unbelievably smart kid, he’s talented, and I will say this, he kind of came out of nowhere,” Rodriguez said. “But at the same time, we kind of saw something in him that we thought had a chance to be pretty good. He’s really turned out to be that way and so I have always had high expectations for him.”
As a sophomore, Bradford pitched 96.2 innings, struck out 87 batters and recorded a 2.51 ERA. He pitched two back-to-back complete game shutouts in his starts against TCU and Kansas State, becoming the second pitcher in team history, since Jason Jennings in 1999, to throw consecutive complete games.
Bradford was then named to the National Collegiate Team along with his battery mate, junior catcher Shea Langeliers. After starting the summer off in the Cape Cod league, he traveled down to North Carolina and started two games, pitching two perfect innings in a game against the CPL Select team and picking up a win against Chinese Taipei. Bradford said it was comforting having Langeliers there with him, but that he also had fun getting to play with some of the best players in college baseball.
“It was really comforting to see a guy that I’ve thrown to for the past two years and getting to throw to him in a game was pretty comforting. Boosts your confidence a little bit,” Bradford said. “But it was awesome getting to play with some of the best players in the nation in college. You see them play on TV a lot but you don’t know if they’re nice guys or you don’t even know what they sound like, and you get to talk to them and crack jokes with them and talk to them about things like Star Wars or like what they do in the bullpen to have fun during games or in the dugout.”
As much talent and ability that he has on the field, Bradford hopes to improve his mental game and leadership skills off the field. He notes that his favorite part of playing for the Bears is the connections that he’s made with his teammates.
“The connections I’ve made with some of the guys are really, really strong,” Bradford said. “It’s deeper than just on the field. It’s deeper than the classroom. I run spiritually with a good group of them and it’s been pretty incredible. They’re guys that I can lean to on anything for the rest of my life and just look to for support, look to for comfort.”
There are people outside of baseball that are important to him too, and that influence him just as much. His parents have always supported him in both his athletic and academic career, as well as his sister, who also attended Baylor. But according to Bradford, the most important person in his life is his fiancée, Baylor softball junior outfielder Madi O’Neal. The two got engaged over Christmas break.
“I have never had a closer friend than Madison O’Neal. I’ve never known more about or have someone know more about me than her,” Bradford said. “We’ve been together since freshman fall, so it’s been a little over two years and we’ve been inseparable since then.”
Going into the 2019 season, Bradford said he’s learned a lot from his teammates and his coaches and that he wants to pass that knowledge on to the younger guys on the team, showing them that’s important to do the little things right.
“Coach Rod always says do the little things right and I think that’s really important as a baseball player. I think it’s really important as a human being and an athlete in general,” Bradford said. “The little things meaning proper nutrition outside of baseball, clean up the dugouts, being able to just picking up a piece of trash along the way, ends up leading to good discipline habits. If you have good discipline you’re going to do the things right off the field, you’re going to do the things right on the field.”