For Rangers Pitcher Cody Bradford, Baseball And Faith Go Hand In Hand
'My ultimate goal is to share the Gospel with my teammates and be on mission in whatever field of work I’m in. That just happens to be baseball right now.'
You may know Cody Bradford as the rookie left-handed pitcher who helped the Texas Rangers win the 2023 World Series.
You may know him as a native of Aledo, Texas, or the Baylor University star who was named the Big 12 Conference Baseball Pitcher of the Year in 2018.
But did you know Bradford is a man of deep faith?
He recently joined Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and his son, Isaac, who hosts an NFL podcast, for a discussion of sports and faith at Perkins School of Youth Ministry (PSYM) 2024.
(Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.)
Bishop Saenz: Cody, you are a person of faith and I've seen your interviews. You always give glory to God for your journey and for putting you in a position to use baseball to be a witness for Christ. How does your faith intersect with your profession as a baseball player?
Cody Bradford: I grew up attending a local Baptist church there with my parents. We went to church every Sunday. Played that church game, I called it being a “cultural Christian” growing up. I didn't really understand the Gospel until I got to college.
It was actually one summer, a teammate reached out and we had a great conversation. I was in a place where I didn't really like where I was. I was having a lot of success on the baseball field in a really established summer league on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But I had a bit of a breakdown after talking to my buddy and just understood that, you know, this isn't where God wants me. I found myself being a slave to sin, just having fleshly desires, and thinking there has to be more to life than this — outside of baseball and in life in general. Having a background growing up in the church, I started thinking ‘Gosh, what did I really learn? What was taught to me that I didn’t pay attention to?’ And it is the Gospel.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
That verse, understanding that verse, studying the Bible, going back reading the Gospels, learning who Jesus was, that made all the difference for me. Understanding that it's nothing I can do to earn my salvation. Right, Jesus died on the cross, he paid that debt. And from then on out, I really started to understand.
Isaac Saenz: How do you prioritize your spirituality in the locker room? When interacting with your teammates, talking with your coaches?
CB: Yeah, I think being a believer kind of puts you in an awkward position sometimes where my job might be baseball, but my ultimate goal isn’t to be successful in baseball. That can shock some people. My ultimate goal is to share the Gospel with my teammates and be on mission in whatever field of work I’m in. That just happens to be baseball right now.
I try to really lead by example. Treating everyone with respect, being a good teammate, being subordinate to my coaches. You can even have an impact on coaches, sometimes. You just don't know.
Bishop: What advice do you have for a young athlete trying to intersect their faith with their passion for sports?
CB: A lot of coaches growing up taught me how to work hard; you have to learn how to work hard. And I think at some point early on, I kind of intersected that with my own faith. I work hard. I need to work to be a good person. And I think as youth ministers, people who are working with children, it's important to really hit home, right, that it's not a works-based gospel.
Bishop: How is pitching a metaphor for the Christian life?
CB: When the ball leaves my hand, I'm no longer in control of anything that happens after that. And I would say in life, where are we finding our security? Are you finding your security in your finances, your performance, your job or your family? Or are you truly depending on God for those things? Are you leaning into the Lord to provide every step of the way?
With pitching, as soon as that ball leaves my hand I’m no longer a pitcher, I’m an infielder. I’m just trying to figure out where the ball is going to go. But I have to live with the result after that. And if I can’t, the next pitch isn’t going to be any better than the one before it. So, all that matters is the pitch that I'm making. You can’t get too bogged down.
Audience member: Who is the person from your childhood or teenage years that showed you what it meant to love God?
CB: My dad, for one, taught me not only how to be a good husband, but just to be a good friend and a hard worker. He set a great example for me.
And then I'd say when I got to college, our chaplain on our team did a really good job with finding creative ways to intersect a busy college athlete’s schedule with faith. This guy would show up at batting practice, ask the coach if he had a glove and go to the outfield and shag balls with us.
For the 10 minutes we were out in the outfield, he's just asking us questions: ‘How’s your faith? How is your spiritual walk right now? What can I do to aid you? What have you been learning? What is something you have a question on?’ In a way that wasn’t pushy. He was a guy who was easy to connect with, a guy that was easy to trust.
Bishop: One last question, I would like to throw a first pitch at a Rangers game. But I need to work on my throw. Any tips?
CB: When I talk to kids, I ask them what's the strongest muscle in your body. Kids say your triceps or your tongue. No, it’s your butt. You want to throw really hard one day, you have to hit the weight room and work on your butt.
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2024