They’d lost their first game of the Premier Girls Fastpitch tournament and were already relegated to the loser’s bracket. That meant if the Orange County Batbusters wanted to lift the trophy, they would have to win every other game that day — including a rematch against their hated rival who had defeated them in the first place.
But six games and 15 straight hours of softball later, Maya Brady — then a junior in high school — and the Batbusters emerged victorious. Yeah, you read that name right: She’s a Brady, as in the niece of 7-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who knows a little something about putting together remarkable comebacks with his back against the wall.
“We started at eight and we ended at like 11 something,” Maya told me in a phone call recently. “It was crazy, but it was literally my favorite softball memory. We were exhausted as a team.”
Now in college, the redshirt freshman outfielder is racking up accolades for the 22-2 and fittingly No. 2-ranked UCLA Bruins softball team. She won Freshman of the Year for her performance before the coronavirus canceled the rest of the schedule last year, and she has already collected Pac-12 Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors this season — the second time she’s pulled off that double in her career.
You may have first heard Brady’s name last month when her home run gained national attention after her uncle — who she calls Uncle Tommy — retweeted it and called her the “most dominant athlete in the Brady family … by far!”
That praise, along with the high expectations for UCLA this season, would put a lot of pressure on a young college student’s shoulders, but somehow Brady seems immune to it.
“I think it’s good to have a little pressure because it allows me to hold myself to a little bit of a higher standard,” Brady said. “And it’s just an honor to get recognized, obviously, by Tommy who’s so accomplished in his sport, but also to be recognized by coaches and softball organizations, as well — just for me as a player and not necessarily who my uncle is.”
Of course, if you knew the family, you’d know why Tom’s statement means so much. Maya’s other uncle is former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis — though she hasn’t tested out his rather unique stance yet.
“I don’t think that would work, honestly, in softball,” Brady said, pointing to how high he kept his hands. “I don’t even know how many people could pull that off in baseball, either,” she joked.
And then there’s Maya’s mother, Maureen, a former All-American pitcher at Fresno State. The two often joke about who would best the other in a matchup.
“She said she would throw a rise ball right by my chin,” Brady said. “That’s her comeback every time. I tell her, ‘Listen, I would take you absolutely deep if you pitched to me.’ I think I could hit her.”
But while dozens, if not hundreds, of stories have been written about how intense Tom is on the field, it’s Maureen who leads the family.
“When I was little, my travel softball team had a Christmas party and musical chairs was the game that we played,” Maya said. “And my mom is in the last round versus somebody’s grandma. My mom took the chair from underneath an old woman just to win musical chairs, and that is a fact. That’s how desperate she is to win.”
Competition is simply a way of life for the Brady clan. Every reunion eventually winds up at some field or court with the two sides splitting into girls vs. boys and going hard against each other.
We got a small taste of that when Tom posted a video of a dodgeball game that had as much passion as most professional championship games. This is not your usual backyard game of catch.
Still, they never pushed Maya into sports. It was something she naturally wanted to do.
“I really was the one that drove athletics,” Maya said. “My mom said when I was little, she tried to give me a baby doll and I threw it. I always wanted to play with soccer balls and footballs. That’s what I was really drawn to even from even a very young age.”
Maya soon developed into one of the country’s top softball players. She was the Los Angeles Daily News’ Player of the Year as a senior in high school, and was ranked as the No. 2 recruit in the country by FloSoftball. Oh yeah, and Don Slaught, the former big leaguer and current hitting coach of the UCLA softball team, has compared her swing to another slugger who is currently starring in Southern California.
“Not to toot my own horn,” Brady said, “but he always holds me up with Mike Trout — not that our swings are similar, but we do sort of similar small things.”
“I kind of cautioned myself in saying that,” Brady added with a laugh, “but, I mean, it’s OK. He threw [Trout’s] name out there, not me.”
For all her success, she’s still a freshman early in her college career. She’s figuring out her major, though she wants to do something in communications. She chose UCLA for the quality of its program, its closeness to home and the close-knit atmosphere that the coaches have put in place.
“I think our team is just so fun,” Brady said. “A lot of people will say about UCLA, we’re always smiling. And having that relaxed, fun atmosphere with each other. It keeps us loose and it reminds us that even in our worst games, we still have each other and it doesn’t define us.”
She’s also not on the TB12 diet — joking that her Uncle Tommy, “might get mad at me for saying that.”
“I just consider myself very lucky to be around and surrounded by such amazing athletes,” Brady said. “Obviously, I’m not a pitcher like my mom was, so I’ve had to take things, bits and pieces of what she said to me. But I think for me, it’s just seeing the type of dedication that they all give to the sport. That really inspires me. I think just being around them has really helped me develop as a player.”