Chad Bradford first pitch to his son
BILOXI - There was never any doubt when Chad Bradford took the mound at MGM Park what he was going to do.
The former Southern Miss pitcher, on hand to throw out the first pitch between Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe, was made famous during a professional playing career that spanned from 1998 to 2009 for dropping down and throwing as a submariner.
So, of course, what did Bradford do on a perfect Wednesday evening in South Mississippi? He dropped down and whipped the ceremonial pitch in for a strike.
"I have to. I have to do it until I fall on my face out there hopefully when I'm 80 years old," Bradford said. "As my son said, 'dad, you can't not drop down. You have to.' I don't get as low as I used to, but at least I try."
The moment gave Bradford chills as his son, Keller, a ULM pitcher, caught the pitch.
Keller knew his father was going to be in attendance for the non-conference contest, but he had no idea his father was going to throw out the first pitch.
"That was awesome. This was a little more special with Mississippi State playing ULM, big ballpark," said Bradford, who previously threw a ceremonial first pitch to his son during a Coastal Plains League game. "This was special."
The elder Bradford will forever be linked to Michael Lewis' book, 'Moneyball,' for his unique delivery. Bradford said he made the transition while a sophomore in high school. He was only throwing in the low 70s and wasn't recording outs at an impressive rate. Almost out of necessity, he made the change and never looked back.
"If you have an open mind and want to do it, it's a lot easier than not wanting to do it," Bradford said. "A lot of guys want to worry about throwing hard and throw over the top. If you worry about velocity too much then you're not a good candidate to drop down.
"If you just want outs and to see those hitters keep trotting back to the dugout then drop down."
It also didn't hurt Bradford that by the time he graduated and headed to Hinds Community College his velocity had risen into the mid-to-upper 80s.
So, what advice does Bradford, now a volunteer at Central Hinds Academy, have for a young high school pitcher who may be struggling to find his way on the mound?
"My advice would be do it as soon as you can when you decide you can't get it done over the top," he said. "Drop down, sell out and don't look back. Don't worry about velocity. Of course you want to throw as hard as you can effectively, but think about throwing strikes more than anything else."
During his 12-year career - all 515 2/3 innings spent as a reliever - Bradford recorded a 36-28 record with a 3.26 ERA.
Keller Bradford, also a submarine reliever who previously pitched at Hinds, is 1-2 with a 2.78 ERA and a 26-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.