As one of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the Payson High School baseball program, 18-year-old Ky Bradley will soon take his diamond act to the campus of Yavapai College in Prescott. His rookie stint with the Roughriders begins Aug. 26 when fall practices and classes begin.
The teen, who graduated from PHS in May, opted to attend Yavapai for several reasons.
"It has a good (baseball) program," he said. "I liked the coach (Sky Smeltzer) and the school is small kind of like home."
While Prescott represents a first stop for the former Payson star, he hopes it is not his last.
"I'd like to go on to a four-year school, hopefully ASU, then on to the pros," he said.
If Bradley's boyhood dream of someday being drafted into the professional ranks becomes a reality, he will be only the third Payson player to ever do so.
The other Longhorns drafted were catcher Larry Majors and pitcher Tom Canale. Both were taken by the Cleveland Indians in the 1990s.
Playing on a big league field would not be a first for Bradley.
He received a quick glimpse of life in the majors when he participated in the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association Super 50 North vs. South All-Star game. The clash was contested on Father's Day in Bank One Ballpark immediately after an Arizona Diamondbacks-Detroit Tigers clash.
"Playing in BOB was probably the biggest thrill of my high school career," he said.
Bradley earned a starting position on the North team and recorded the first hit of the ball game a single into the left centerfield gap.
Because the Super-50 game was an inaugural showdown, Bradley's hit was also the first-ever in what is expected to be a long list of postseason all-star clashes co-sponsored by the ABCA and Diamondbacks.
Playing at Yavapai will be a huge change for Bradley.
During fall ball, he's been told the Roughriders will compete in 50 to 60 games. All of those contests simply set the stage for the all-important spring season that can feature another 50-game slate.
In high school, teams traditionally play about a 25-game season.
Smeltzer's advice to his new recruit has been simple.
"He told me it was going to be a long season, so lift weights and get in shape," Bradley said.
Longtime Payson High School baseball coach Teddy Pettet said Bradley's services will be missed.
"Because he did so much for us, we'll have a tough time replacing him," he said. "Ky was a solid player and a team leader."
Bradley's first taste as a full-time starter occurred during his sophomore season when he alternated between second and third base.
A year earlier, he was a substitute on the 1999 team that won the Class 3A state championship.
As a junior, Bradley was the Horns' front line pitcher. When not on the mound, he started at third base.
Last season, he drew an occasional pitching nod from Pettet but spent most of the campaign playing third base and leading the Horns offensively.
"He held down the three spot (in the lineup) for us and was by far our most powerful player," Pettet said.
At the conclusion of the season, he was named to the All-East Region first team and was later selected to participate in the Class 3A ABCA All-Star North vs. South game.
In that All-star game, contested June 1 at Grand Canyon College, Bradley's two-RBI triple helped the North beat the South 5-3.
At the conclusion of that contest, he and Pettet, were tapped to participate in the Super-50 encounter.
After graduation from PHS, Bradley quickly set about honing his diamond skills for the collegiate level.
Throughout the summer, he has been playing on the Flagstaff Peaks team that participated in a state-wide Connie Mack league.
As a Peaks' starter at third base, Bradley led the team in home runs with 11. During a 40-team Connie Mack tournament in Albuquerque, Bradley help Peaks beat one of the top-notch teams in the Southwest, the Albuquerque Cubs, to the tune of 9-3.
Although baseball has long been Bradley's first love, he was also a standout in football and basketball for the Longhorns.
As the Horns' starting quarterback last fall, he led Payson to the state quarterfinals before the Horns were eliminated by eventual state champion Blue Ridge.
When he wasn't calling signals, Bradley was hauling down opposing ball carriers from his safety position.
Defensively, he led the Horns in tackles.
At the conclusion of the season, he was tapped All-East first team.
In basketball, Bradley was a starting guard for coach Mike Loutzenheiser's Longhorns. Although he wasn't a prolific scorer, Bradley could always be counted on for solid all-around floor play and a yeoman-like defensive effort.
Bradley graduated from Payson High with a 3.65 grade point average in college-prep studies, but says he has not yet decided on an academic major.