COLUMBIA – Phil Bradley is a MU legend.
He was part of the first Missouri Hall of Fame class of 1990 for his performance as a two-sport athlete at MU from 1977-81, thriving in both football and baseball. He chose baseball over football and once got more MVP votes than Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
Missouri 12, North Central 0 (five innings)
Missouri 3, Heartland Community College 0 (rain-shortened)
He was an All-Star in 1985, and Phil Bradley is still modest.
Missouri softball coach Ehren Earleywine asked the former Major League Baseball and Missouri star to officially join the team as the volunteer assistant coach for the 2010 season. Bradley now joins Earleywine’s staff years after Earleywine got his start at coaching under Bradley at Westminster College in Fulton from 1994-96.
The chance to meet one another almost didn’t happen. Earleywine was unsure of accepting the assistant coaching position at his alma mater. He planned to use his business degree to become part of what he called “Corporate America.”
That was until he heard that Bradley agreed to be the head coach.
“The opportunity to work side by side with a big leaguer was kind of appealing to me,” Earleywine said. “We went through three years together, and I learned a tremendous amount about the game. He was just such a great mentor to me in so many ways. He ignited my coaching interest.”
Bradley says the primary reason he accepted the job at Missouri is because of his relationship with Earleywine, but the fact that it is on his campus makes it convenient too.
“It’s all part of it,” Bradley said. “I live here. He (Earleywine) is graceful enough to allow me to come and go when I have to. It’s a benefit for me.”
The relationship might be the reason why Bradley landed on the staff, but his expertise is why he is respected. Bradley spent eight seasons in the outfield with four different Major League teams, the majority with the Seattle Mariners. After that, he spent an additional three years coaching at Westminster College. Earleywine describes him as a true “student of the game” who uses his experience to teach.
“I try to be whatever I need to be at a particular time or a particular day,” Bradley said. “It's hard for me to focus on one specific thing. I just try to be whatever he needs me to be at the moment.”
Earleywine isn’t sure that he isn’t a better coach than a player, even though he spent so much time as a player.
“I guess his two primary areas are hitting and outfield, but he does everything,” Earleywine said. “If he sees something that the catchers aren’t doing right, he walks right up and gets in their business. He is a guy with just such depth of knowledge that we pretty much give him free range.”
Freshman third baseman Nicole Hudson didn’t even realize who the new coach was until her father,who was raised near Columbia, told her all about him. She said that he was almost more excited than she was.
“My dad called me and said, ‘I can’t believe Coach Bradley is going to be your coach. He was my hero,’” Hudson said. “It’s all just really exciting.”
Sophomore pitcher Kristin Nottelmann said Bradley’s approachability is almost as important as his knowledge of the game. The players and coaches don’t see him as a Major Leaguer or a Columbia legend — just Coach Bradley, a normal guy.
The team swept its doubleheader Saturday morning, not allowing a run all day. The Tigers beat North Central Community College 12-0 behind five perfect innings of pitching from Nottelmann and two home runs from Hudson in her first career game at Missouri. Hudson hit another home run in the second game, leading the Tigers to a 3-0 victory over Heartland Community College in a rain-shortened game.