Luke Bradbury is coming to an outfield near you.
The recently-graduated Fort Scott High School product signed last week with the Neosho County Panthers baseball program.
The athletic center fielder is fresh off a phenomenal senior campaign at FSHS, finishing with a robust .432 batting average and an SEK Conference-leading 17 doubles, to go along with 28 RBI in 21 games. For his success on the field, he garnered First-Team All-State and First Team All-Conference accolades.
While he was also the ace of Fort Scott’s pitching staff, he is expected to play exclusively in the outfield at Neosho County.
Bradbury said he’s long envisioned potentially playing for Neosho County, as his older brother Jacob was high school teammates with former Neosho County baseball products Mason Knopp and Kaleb De La Torre.
“Mason Knopp was a key role model in my baseball career,” Bradbury said. “I watched him play in a lot of games at Fort Scott, and that’s where my love for Neosho came from. Playing there is definitely going to make me into a better player and I’m excited for that.”
Bradbury is longtime best friends with Ivan Witt, who played one year with the Panthers this past season, then signed with NCAA Division I Creighton University. Bradbury will also be joining forces with former prep teammate Drake LaRoche.
Known for making highlight-reel caliber plays in the outfield, Bradbury says he plays with a carefree demeanor, sprinkled with a little “swag.”
“My batting stance and just the way I act, I have a little bit of swagger to my game,” he said.
Josh Regan, his high school head coach, helped Bradbury unlock that swag.
“I used to be a pretty shy kid and didn’t like to be outspoken,” he said. “But Coach Regan has definitely motivated me to be myself and have the confidence to know what I can do. And once that happened, doors opened.”
Bradbury said he loves playing against top competition and has a reputation for rising to the occasion, especially on the mound.
“I’m definitely going to miss being the No. 1 dude on the mound and miss being in control,” said Bradbury, who hits and throws right-handed. “My thing has always been ‘I want to do it for my team, just make that play for the team.’ I sell out in the field every chance I get, even if there’s a chance of me messing up. I live for it — I’ve always been a dude who likes playing in the clutch scenario.”
Bradbury has also spent the past three years developing under the tutelage of former 12-year Major League Baseball veteran Adam LaRoche, who attended Bradbury’s signing day ceremony.
“He’s a busy guy,” Bradbury said, “but whenever he makes time to be with the team, everybody’s happy. We couldn’t be more blessed as a program to have that.”
Bradbury also said he’s excited to now be playing for 36th-year Neosho County head coach Steve Murry.
“I love Coach Murry,” he said. “It’s definitely a great fit. It felt like home when I got there.”
Murry had nothing but praise for Bradbury.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid that loves to play the game,” he said, “and, that’s what we’re after.”
Regan echoed Murry’s sentiments, as Bradbury was instrumental in Fort Scott’s turnaround. They dropped their first six contests of the season, followed by a 10-game win streak.
“He played in the field for us every inning that he wasn’t pitching, and he was always hitting in the heart of our order,” Regan said. “We wanted as many guys on base as possible when Luke came to bat. He was our dude and drove in most of our runs.”
Regan called Bradbury the “X-factor” for the team’s turnaround, as they shared the conference crown with Chanute.
“That doesn’t happen without Luke; he was absolutely unstoppable,” Regan said.
Regan also noted that Bradbury has been competing in high-leverage situations since his sophomore season, and that he and Witt were the lone underclassmen to receive major playing time when they were the top-seeded team in the state in 2019.
In the state tournament semifinals, Bradbury notched a seventh-inning RBI double, sparking a furious rally that fell just short.
“We won 22-straight that year and he was a big part of that,” Regan said.
Regan’s program has long been known for its top-notch development of players. With all the quality FSHS players who have taken their talents to the collegiate level, Regan said Bradbury has as much potential as any player he’s coached.
“He can flat-out play, man — he’s a stud,” Regan said. “His game elevated because of his work ethic in the weight room and how much bigger, stronger, and faster he got. He’s one of the most ‘toolsey’ players we’ve had come through here.”
Regan referred to Bradbury as a “doubles machine” at the plate.
“As a hitter, his pop is outstanding — he has big-time bat speed,” he said. “We faced some really good arms this year and Luke was still a force and never overmatched. As a matter of fact, I thought he elevated his game when we were facing the best arms. He’s just a competitor like that. And, he’s a savvy player, he’s there to win.”
Regan also lauded Murry and his Panthers baseball program.
“I think the world of Steve,” he said. “I’ve sent him some of the very best that have come through here. And I’m always glad to do that because I know that they’re well taken care of in his program. My players who leave his program always sing his praises and are very satisfied with their experience during their time there.”
Bradbury’s goal is to eventually play professionally. If that does not come to fruition, he said he wants to pursue a career as a high school guidance counselor and coach.
“I don’t want kids to slip through the cracks of the system,” Bradbury said. “Some kids don’t get the attention they deserve and I want to be there for them.”