Being in the same conference, both strong contenders to win the Oklahoma 6-A state championship and participants in the same spring break tournament, Owasso and Broken Arrow High will probably go head-to-head a few times during the 2011 season. And it is likely that on more than one occasion, righthanders Archie Bradley and Dylan Bundy will toe the rubber, on opposite sides, staring each other down.
Both fierce competitors and among the best arms in the country, the two should put on a show that is hardly seen at the varsity level. But don’t be fooled by their hunger to win a state title and one-up each other. Bradley and Bundy are two brothers bound by the bonds of baseball. They have been best friends, teammates and workout partners for several years. They have lived together, pushed each other to the limit, fought like siblings and still constantly push each other’s buttons.
“When you talk to Dylan, be sure to remind him that I’ve got four or five inches on him,” Bradley said. “Bring it up, over and over and over.”
“Archie says he’s 6-foot-5,” Bundy responded. “He ain’t no 6-5.”
Going to rival high schools, Bundy at Owasso and Bradley at Broken Arrow, you would expect and understand if these two had a mutual respect for each other’s talents, but deep down wanted no part of a relationship. But these two are inseparable. They are almost identical. Both possess a powerful arsenal and are considered to be two of the best righthanders in this year’s draft class. They work to stay in peak physical condition. The only difference is height.
Idealism In The Flesh
Bradley stands about 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. Scouts love his frame and the projection it oozes. He works with a fastball that gets up to 95-96 mph. He also throws a knuckle-curve and is working on improving a circle changeup.
“I’m a front of the rotation guy,” Bradley said. “I’ll come after you and throw the fastball at any time. People get away from the fastball too much.”
Bradley’s raw stuff is more than enough to get excited about, but he also has a mental toughness that stems from being a highly-touted quarterback. He is committed to Oklahoma and chose the Sooners because of their interest in him as a quarterback and pitcher. Most schools wanted him for one sport or the other, but the decision seemed easy when Oklahoma was prepared to let him play two sports. It is undetermined whether Bradley will continue his football career, but he knows there has been more than just a physical benefit to playing on the gridiron.
“Football has helped me tremendously, especially on the mental side,” Bradley said. “I have to understand what everyone on the field is doing. Everything is in your hands. It really taught me how to slow down the game and keep everything under control.”
Broken Arrow head coach Shannon Dobson has had plenty of talent come through the school, but has yet to see a pitcher like Bradley.
“He’s definitely a competitor,” Dobson said. “Everything works off that fastball. He’s worked hard to develop the changeup and his command has gotten better. The thing for him is going to be command of all three pitches.”
Smaller Frame, Big Stuff
While Bundy doesn’t turn heads with his 6-foot-1, 200-pound frame, he does bring plenty of stuff to the table. He also works with a fastball that has reached 95-96 mph, as well as a breaking ball that is a hard, swing-and-miss pitch. For scouts who haven’t seen Bundy and hear he’s a tick over six feet tall, they ask about his maximum-effort delivery. But he doesn’t have one.
Bundy, a Texas signee, delivers his arsenal from an easy, balanced delivery. Natural talent is partly responsible for this rare commodity, but Bundy’s workout habits certainly are a factor. As a freshman, Bundy and his brother Bobby—now a righthander in the Orioles farm system—posted a YouTube video of a routine they use to strengthen their rotator cuffs.
Using a punching bag, Bundy goes through a series of exercises in which he delivers short, quick punches in a variety of angles and cadences.
“It came from Dave Franklin, my brother’s adviser,” Bundy said. “He came up with it six to eight years ago and hasn’t had a pitcher get hurt. Knock on wood. It develops the back side of your shoulder, which is crucial.”
He completes this workout twice a week during the offseason and does it once a week when in season. Bradley recently started the workout himself and is now encouraging his teammates to try it, including righthander Mason Hope, who is also committed to Oklahoma and among the Top 100 High School Prospects.
“I’ve never been around anyone with Dylan’s work ethic,” Owasso head coach Larry Turner said. “When he came to us there were concerns that he was a prima donna, but he’s been the most pleasant person to coach. The kids feed off him and get better. He’s up and working out at 5:30 a.m. and he’s in there again after practice.”
Rivals And Roommates
During the summer circuit the last two years, Bradley and Bundy have lived together in Dallas and provided a strong one-two punch in the D-Bat Mustangs’ rotation. Just days before the Aflac All-America Game, Bundy and Bradley made a second-straight trip to the Connie Mack World Series. On his 18th birthday, Bradley struck out the first nine hitters in a start against the Strike Zone Cardinals and finished with 16 strikeouts in an easy Mustangs win.
“By far that was the greatest time of my life,” Bradley said. “I pitched the best of my life on my birthday, then flew to San Diego to play on a big league field.”
The series is double elimination and Bundy pitched well in the finals against the Midland Redskins to force a decisive game. The Redskins prevailed 4-3, giving the Mustangs a runner-up finish.
Bradley and Bundy immediately left Farmington, N.M. for San Diego to play in the Aflac Game. Bradley pitched two innings, striking out four of the six batters he faced, while Bundy only hit since he didn’t have the necessary amount of rest.
While they fell short of a world series win, the two righthanders will reap the benefits of the summer they spent together and the competition they faced.
“We’ve lived together the last two years in Dallas,” Bradley said. “It’s one of the best things we could have done. We both put in the same amount of work. We pushed each other. We understand what it takes to get to the next level. We learn from each other and pick each other’s brains.”
Title On The Line
Bradley and Bundy are fully aware of what their future holds. Barring unforeseen elements that make stocks drop, both are slated to go in the first round of this year’s draft and both have a commitment to a top-notch baseball program to fall back on.
“They’re both big-time guys,” a National League area scout said. “Dylan’s got maybe a little better now stuff, but Archie projects to be pretty good—maybe better. Some people like one guy, some like the other.”
But those events will be a factor after the Oklahoma state tournament. It’s rare for two pitchers with such elite status to be members of the same conference, but it’s even less common for them to be at schools that are likely to be the top two in the entire state. Broken Arrow last won a title in 1991—before there was a 6-A classification. Owasso has won 11 state titles in its history, eight between 1998-2009.
It’s clear where the tradition lies, but Dobson is confident in what he thinks is his most talented team ever. He has Bradley and Hope on the mound as well as Dylan Delso, an Arizona State signee, behind the plate. Owasso has Bundy, a second D-I pitcher in Philip Wilson (Oral Roberts) and a D-I catcher as well with Drew Stiner (Oklahoma State).
“Owasso is expected to be the state champs every year,” Bundy said. “We don’t always have the best talent, but the coaches make us so much better. The Broken Arrow game is going to be amazing. Archie is hungry for a win against me and I want to defend my win against him. It should be really fun.”
With the prospect of seeing two first-round arms go against each other while facing challenging lineups, the pro franchises are likely to be represented by at least two or three of their scouts. But they’ll be easily outnumbered by the fans.
“It’s going to be a blast,” Bradley said. “When we play each other, it’s the only time you see a student section in baseball. They come out and support us. It’s a war. We want to beat them as bad as we can.It’s time to end the Owasso saga.”