In a sport where statistics rule, Coach Bradley thinks more about the great players and great memories of a 29-year baseball coaching career, 27 years at the varsity high school level, than the numbers.
But still the stats are good. A career total record of 556 wins, 315 losses and two ties along with Bradley’s teams that won eight Flint Metro League titles, eight District titles, six Regional titles, one trip that ended in the Semi-Finals and two appearances in the State Finals, both losses.
A fierce competitor, Bradley said he remembers the tough losses more than the big wins.
Quoting tennis great Jimmy Connors, Bradley said: “I hated to lose more than I liked to win.”
But he has memories of great teams, whose pictures and trophies adorn the walls and cabinets of his classroom. Bradley has taught at Lapeer Community Schools for 32 years.
“Our teams went far very often, we expected to win and the losses were tough,” Bradley said. “I wanted my teams to battle, be competitive and play the game the right way, the way it is supposed to be played. We put Lapeer on the baseball map.”
In past years, Bradley coached both boys’ golf and baseball, but when the boys’ golf season was moved to the spring, Bradley had to make the difficult choice last year to put his baseball coaching behind him.
“It was a very tough decision,” Bradley said. He has also coached freshmen football for five years and junior high football for the past two years. He has coached boys’ golf for 26 years. He has also coached Metamora Little League teams.
One of the highlights of his career was coaching his two sons in baseball. Scott, now an engineer in Phoenix played golf and baseball and Nick, who attends medical school in the Caribbean, played golf, baseball and basketball during his time at West. Daughter Jill, who is a junior at Michigan State University, played basketball, tennis and softball at Lapeer West.
Another highlight was coaching the high school All-Star game at Comerica Park.
One of his players, Brandon Reed, made it to AAA farm teams of the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, the closest Bradley came to having a former player make the major leagues. Another player, Steve Bradshaw, had a great college baseball career.
Bradley said his coaching kept him out of the house often, but his wife, Quinn, was always supportive and often came to watch his games.
“I treated everyone tough, but I hope I treated everyone fairly,” Bradley said. “You could say I was an ‘old school’ coach. I wanted things a certain way.”
Bradley credited his father with instilling a passion for the sport, taking him to games, listening to games on the radio and keeping score.
“The neighborhood kids played baseball everyday. “we made our own fields and could hardly wait to get to the ballpark,” Bradley said. In high school, Bradley was a good player and was going to try out for the Michigan State University team when he broke his hand just before tryouts.
A career that ends in a hall of fame selection means a lot to Bradley, but he hopes it means a lot to another group of people as well.
“I hope my players feel good about this because they are the reason I’m getting this honor,” Bradley said. “We always emphasized team. I always taught attitude, hustle and giving it your best. I used to say, when we’re done with the season if you looked into a mirror ‘did you do everything you could to make us a better team?”
Over the years he made a lot of friends in the coaching fraternity and enjoyed the friendly rivalries with Fenton, Davison and Lapeer East. Even after he retires someday, Bradley plans to continue coaching.
“I think other teams knew we played good baseball and people knew whether we won or lost that we always gave it our best,” Bradley said. “We provided a lot of good public relations for Lapeer.”
A date has not been set for the Hall of Fame induction, but it will coincide with the High School All-Star game in June at Comerica Park. Bradley is one of four coaches selected for induction in 2009.