Manning Bradley

Young Henderson athlete adjusts to his special circumstances

Some people are bound for greatness while others have greatness thrust upon them. And then there is 12-year-old Manning Bradley who is somewhere in between.

It is hard to believe that someone so young has accomplished so much in their young life, but Bradley has been setting people on their collective ears in local Dixie Youth Baseball for the past several years as a pitcher and teammate. 

Bradley was diagnosed at a very young age with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder. 

His mother, Karie, explained it was an early discovery.

“I had a diagnosis at 20 weeks and they said everything was probably okay,” she said. “The problems started about a week, maybe two weeks later. I was in the hospital and eventually on bed rest.”

Both Karie and Bart, Manning’s father, began to notice Manning favoring his right side over his left at a very early age. 

“We noticed he would reach for things on his left side with his right hand,” Bart said. 

The family’s doctor at the time kept assuring the Bradleys that Manning would grow out of it. He didn’t; it was time to get a second opinion.

As it turns out, Manning had a lesion on the top of his brain but far enough to the back that none of his cognitive functions were disturbed. 

Bart has a ‘more than fatherly’ knowledge of baseball, and when Manning got to the age where the pair could play toss, some other issues became evident. 

“I noticed that Manning couldn’t squeeze the glove,” Bart said. “He was a right-handed thrower, so he was actually catching the ball bare-handed with his right hand.” Subsequently, Bart had a “Jim Abbott” moment.

Manning made it through T-ball season with the help of a right-handed glove and started to copy a similar routine that Abbott became famous for in the major leagues. 

Manning put in countless house of rote motion to perfect as best he could the change from catching to throwing. 

Along about the second grade, the family noticed an issue with Manning’s left foot. He was walking on the ball of his foot and running was difficult. 

Consultation with doctors in Dallas revealed that Manning’s Achilles tendons were locked up. 

A procedure that entailed two small incisions (top and bottom) and one in the middle on the opposite side unlocked the tendon and allowed Manning to straighten out his foot. 

His ever-increasing speed and agility on the field equated to more and more confidence in Manning. 

Manning made the 9-year-old Henderson All-Stars. This was just the beginning of Manning’s list of successes.

This past season, and his last in Dixie Youth, Manning batted at a .635 average; as a pitcher, he had a 5-1 record with 79 strikeouts in 33-plus innings of work for the season.

According to previously published reports, Manning was highly respected among his peers and opponents, and some coaches admitted they would rather see him reach his pitch limit rather than have their batters face him. 

Through all of this, however, Manning is still very much a 12-year-old boy. He is developing a passion for the game. He may eventually acquire interest in other sports. At the very least, he is participating in a weight-training program to become the best Manning he can be. 

He’s not much of a talker, except about baseball. During the interview this past week he couldn’t stop talking about the MLB home run derby or the upcoming all-star game.

If you ask him who would be on his fantasy team, he doesn’t hesitate to call off each player by position in rapid succession.

And it may come to pass that, one day, the Henderson baseball collective says, “Jim Abbott – eat your heart out.”


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