BRADLEY

Jackson County's Sam Bradley hit .329 despite being only a freshman this past spring. Bradley just finished up summer ball with the Panthers but is maintaining a busy off-season schedule as he preps for his 2022 campaign. 

Sam Bradley proved himself a talented and productive freshman for Jackson County this spring but may have earned himself an even greater reputation as a rookie.

“He’s a grinder,” Panther baseball coach Matt Bolt said.

Jackson County’s young first baseman hit .329 with a team-high 17 RBIs while demonstrating a preparation level that’s hard to find, according to his coach. So much so that Bradley’s freshman-year success didn’t take Bolt by surprise.

“Sam’s work ethic is one of the best I’ve ever seen,” said Bolt, whose team wrapped up summer ball last week. “Sam’s here early. He wants to hit late. He works and he works and he works, and so honestly, it wasn’t that surprising.”

Bradley managed his freshman-season success after missing his entire eighth-grade season due to a January 2020 hip surgery. His femur slipped off his growth plate while performing a max squat weightlifting.

“I had to re-learn my swing, and find the muscle memory and rebuild all of that,” Bradley said.

Successfully doing that, Bradley posted big numbers during a year in which the Panthers moved into a rigorous Region 8-AAAAA — one that featured four teams that spent time in the Class AAAAA top 10 at some point in the season. But Bradley came in with high-level travel ball experience under his belt, so the young Panther was not intimidated by the region’s pitching.

“He’s constantly seeing the high-level pitching, so it’s easy to translate when you come into high-school ball because he’s seeing 90-plus on a weekly basis,” Bolt said.

The future is certainly bright for Bradley, who is already 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. Not only does he have three more high school seasons ahead of him, he should add more size to his frame (Bolt notes that Bradley’s father is 6-foot-7). Bolt said the hope is to bulk him up to 195-200 pounds by next season.

“We expect a lot out of Sam for the next three years in our program,” Bolt said. “He’s going to be a pivotal point of the success that we have as a program.”

Bradley possesses other intangibles: He’s a 4.0 student and is described as a class act on the field.

“He’s a kid that after practice, he shakes your hand,” Bolt said. “After games, he comes and shakes your hand and tells you ‘thank you.’ He’s just a very genuine and nice kid and that’s a testament to his parents and the way that he was raised.”

He’s also not afraid to lead, despite his youth. 

“He’s extremely vocal, and our kids feed off of him,” Bolt said. “It’s impressive to have a 14-year-old that’s thrown into a leadership role so early … He’s not a shy kid. He’s extremely humble, but the kids respect him because of his work ethic.”

Though the Panthers’ 2021 campaign ended nearly two months ago, Bradley hasn’t stopped. Bradley was playing six games a week during June between summer ball and travel ball on top of multiple days out of the week committed to workouts and extra hitting practice.

“It’s just every day,” Bradley said. “It’s a grind.”

Looking to improve his game for his sophomore campaign, Bradley hopes to add more speed and wants to pitch for the Panthers next year. He also points to a stat missing from his 2021 résumé.

“I want to be able to hit for more power because I didn’t hit any home runs this year,” Bradley said. “I want to hit several next year.”

Bradley, the grinder, is ready to keep on grinding.

“I try to work my hardest, and I don’t stop until I can get that goal that I want,” he said, reflecting on his first high school season. “Next year, hopefully, I can do even better than that … Most importantly, just help my team, do what I can do the best to help my team out. Whatever it takes to do that, I’ll be willing to do.”

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