Bradford making own legacy at MSU
MSU freshman C.T. Bradford was the Most Outstanding Player of the Atlanta Regional. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
The Bradford clan gets to gas up the car at least one more time to watch the youngest of the family put on a show in a Mississippi State jersey in the postseason.
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In the last month, it's been well worth the trip.
Bulldogs freshman C.T. Bradford not only left the Atlanta Regional with a three-game sweep celebrated by the rest of of his teammates but was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. The 2010 Mr. Baseball in the state of the Florida finished the weekend 7-for-13 at the plate with five RBIs and three runs scored.
"My timing was down and just trying to see some pitches," C.T. Bradford said. "It worked out well and since the SEC Tournament I've been hitting it really well."
He had a pair of singles and an RBI-double in the first three innings of play during Sunday's 7-3 victory over Georgia Tech on Sunday night to clinch the Regional title.
"Bradford killed us," Georgia Tech head coach Danny Hall said. "We hung a split-finger to him that he ripped down the line and then we pitched him differently and he pushed a 2-RBI hit to right field."
The Bradford family will journey to see C.T. and the rest of the MSU squad in the Super Regional round starting Friday afternoon against No. 2 Florida in Gainesville.
"Starkville is actually closer to our home than Gainesville is," C.T.'s father Mike Bradford said. "With the game being on TV too, we haven't been swamped for ticket requests."
Bradford is currently hitting .309 with 34 RBIs and 11 stolen bases out of the leadoff spot in the MSU lineup.
"His swing is good enough that he could've broken out at any point," MSU third baseman Jarrod Parks said. "It just so happened that it was the most important part of the year."
Once he walked on campus, he immediately had the respect of his older teammates from day one of fall baseball practices.
"He's been tremendous for us and we knew he'd be a great player for us early on," senior first baseman Ryan Collins said. "He's just too mature and too good for us to doubt him at any point."
Bradford, who stands just 5-foot-8, is possibly the definition of the "scrappy" image of Mississippi State's baseball program under year three of the John Cohen era. The Bulldogs head coach takes issue with that since that label may take away from the talent level of his leadoff hitter.
"C.T. Bradford is a little tiny guy that's just got a huge heart and great ability," Cohen said. "I don't ever want to short change our kids for scrappy over skill level. C.T. has skill level."
It's that physical detriment that held scouts at pause early on in the recruiting process for Bradford but not something he says he's bitter about or can't overcome at all.
One of the reasons for that is the experience of being able to turn to his dad, Mike, who lettered as a baseball program at MSU from 1982-83 about the roller coaster ride that is a 60-game college baseball season and what kind of work he has to put in.
"He really doesn't worry about his size because like I tell him all the time â€“ that's only in their eyes," Mike Bradford said. "He understands that and he's not going to grow 3 inches by tomorrow so why worry about it?"
Bradford and his dad talk about baseball and what he's doing right and wrong nearly every day throughout the season. As Mike told the Starkville Daily News, he has only missed a couple of his son's games this season.
"It's nice because we get in the car and drive over the day before and have lunch with C.T. before the Friday night game of a weekend series," Mike Bradford said.
The younger Bradford can now take home an All-SEC honor (2011 All-Freshman Team selection) and a Regional championship Most Outstanding Player trophy to the house in Pace, Fla.
"Our mother and I are so proud of the work he continues to put into his game â€“ that's never going to stop with him," Mike Bradford said. "It's a family thing with him as his older brother works with him on his swing mechanics as well."
C.T. Bradford was recruited by all the top schools in the country including Miami and Florida State and Mike admits he didn't think it wasn't actually conceivable early on that his son would follow in his footsteps to MSU until he took a recruiting trip to Starkville.
"C.T. and I went on a recruiting trip and on the drive home he looked at me and said 'dad, I want to play centerfield at Dudy Noble Field," Mike Bradford said. "He fell in love with the facilities at MSU and the coaching staff between John, (MSU pitching coach) Butch Thompson and (MSU assistant coach) Lane Burroughs."
Since the beginning of May, Bradford has hits in 12 of the last 15 games and has maintained an on-base percentage around .400 in the most difficult college baseball league in America.
"I talk with my dad almost every day and we talked about â€“ getting through that wall that most freshman face," Bradford said. "I broke through that in the SEC Tournament and kept in going in Regionals."
After going 6-for-18 in the four games against the Gators this season, C.T. Bradford is looking forward at another shot at the school that really showed little interest in his services while he was in high school.
"I'm excited about the challenge about that and look forward to seeing how I can help the team get to the College World Series," C.T. Bradford said. "I just want to keep playing baseball right now."