Bradley supporting tornado victims in Oklahoma

By Ashley Marshall

When Monday’s tornado ripped through the heart of Oklahoma, pitching prospect and Sooner State native Archie Bradley was on the field working out. It wasn’t until he got back to the clubhouse that he learned the true extent of the storm.

Now he’s teaming up with athletes and charities to provide relief to those in need.

Bradley is auctioning some of his personal game-used items to support the disaster relief fund, and fellow Minor Leaguers, football players and basketball stars have sent signed memorabilia to help those most affected by the twister.

Visit the Archie Bradley Tornado Relief Fund page, hosted by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

“I was in Pensacola and I’d just finished up my running and playing catch,” Bradley said. “I went back into the locker room and I had a bunch of phone calls and text messages from former teammates, baseball players, family members. My phone was just blowing up, people asking if my family was OK, if the tornado hit close to my home, if I knew what was going on.

“I got online and jumped on Twitter and Facebook and stuff. I knew there were severe storms, but I didn’t know how severe there were. I jumped online and saw how bad everything was, so I immediately called my mom, called my dad, called family members that I have close to the area and made sure everyone was safe and out of harm’s way. And fortunately, they were.”

That’s when Bradley, who was raised in Muskogee but moved to Broken Arrow — a couple hours drive northeast of Oklahoma City — after his sophomore year, decided to see what he could do to help.

“After I saw the images and what was going on, through the game I kept thinking about it; the bus ride home, I was thinking about it,” he said. “Normally, I auction off those pink cleats and donate the money to a breast cancer charity because my mom is a breast cancer survivor. But in light of the circumstances, I thought, ‘Why don’t I auction them off and donate the money to the relief fund?’

“I talked to Taijuan Walker and Billy Hamilton and Dylan Bundy about seeing if they had anything they could donate for me. Then it just picked up speed.”

Archie Bradley game-worn cleats. Signed, with "2011 1st round #7" inscription.

Archie Bradley game-worn cleats. Signed, with “2011 1st round #7” inscription.

Walker donated a pair of game-used cleats and two signed game-used balls and Bundy sent Bradley five game-used balls, a signed photo of him from his professional debut and a photo of him with Bradley taken the day they both got drafted. Mobile BayBears teammate David Holmberg donated a signed game-used glove.

Arizona pitcher Daniel Hudson donated game-used gloves, cleats and bats, and the D-backs are sending the proceeds from their own online action to the Archie Bradley Disaster Relief Program, which is being organized and run through the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma.

“Especially for pro athletes, it’s not a big deal to donate some signed gear,” Bradley said. “We get as much as we want with these sponsorships. But for guys to take notice and want to help, it shows the care from their hearts is true. It’s really good to see people from the sports world take time out of their day and realize how blessed and how fortunate we are to play a game for a living.

David Holmberg signed game-used glove.

David Holmberg signed game-used glove.

“I feel really blessed. People follow me because what I’m doing on the baseball field, but I also want people to understand that I’m not just a baseball player and that I really do care about where I’m from. I care about those people and those families, and I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to do this. I want it to gain attention for the right reasons. I want to make sure this is about those families; this isn’t about me, I don’t want attention for this. I want to raise as much money as I can for these families.”

To that end, Bradley was surprised to hear from other athletes, including Blake Griffin, who wanted to help.

“I don’t know how he heard about it, but our GM here from Mobile used to work for the Clippers and Blake sent an autographed basketball,” Bradley said. “I also had a guy that works for a news station in Tennessee say the Titans will try and get some stuff together, and I had another guy from Oklahoma say he will try and get some stuff from Sam Bradford and some Heisman winners from [Oklahoma University].”

While Broken Arrow was unaffected by the tornado, Bradley has many ties to the area that was hit. He has an aunt and uncle in Norman, 20 miles south of Oklahoma City, and still has many former teammates and friends in and around Moore, which is located roughly between the two cities.

Baseball signed by Archie Bradley and teammate David Holmberg.

Baseball signed by Archie Bradley and teammate David Holmberg.

“It was devastating, it was really really hard to watch,” Bradley said. “I had so many friends in that area, just trying to imagine what those people are going through. The elementary schools that were hit, some of the videos people posted of people coming out of storm cellars in the house and the neighborhood completely flat. Being able to see for miles where five minutes ago you couldn’t even see because there was a house there and now it’s flat.

“Just some of the graphic images being posted of children being pulled out of houses and people not knowing where kids or their family members are was really hard to look at.  This is my home state and I’m partial and biased to it, but it’s still really hard to see what all the people are going through.”

Bradley’s pink Mother’s Day cleats currently have a bid of $1,125 on eBay. The auction ends Thursday evening.

Links to the other items can be found on the Archie Bradley Tornado Relief Fund page, hosted by the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, as they come from the athletes.

“The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma ensures the donations and money goes directly to families,” he said. “They identify specific needs for the families and the victims. It’s local and it goes directly to those people.

“What tends to happen is when a tornado hits or a tragic event happens, two weeks later people are going on with their normal lives. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just what happens. But it’s going to take a long time for the Moore and the Oklahoma City area to rebuild, and I want these auctions to continually raise money for these families because it’s a long process for these people to get back on their feet.”

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