They were still talking about Brady Ballstadt’s catch in Piedmont College’s 14-11 loss to Maryville last Sunday at home during the Lions’ meet-and-greet dinner that evening.
The former Lambert baseball player and Piedmont freshman outfielder had made a leaping, full-extension grab in deep center field in the bottom of the third inning, a sure run-saving grab that awed the crowd, including his friend and teammate on the mound Matt Vonderschmidt, a fellow Lambert grad.
So spectacular was the play that Piedmont’s athletic communications department sprang into action: they cut the footage, put it on social media during the game and submitted it to the assignment desk at ESPN. At the meet-and-greet, they told Ballstadt. Maybe, they said, he’d be on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“We didn’t really expect anything,” Ballstadt said.
Even so, Ballstadt had the television on during the 11 p.m. edition of SportsCenter just in case. But as the sportscast with anchors Steve Levy and John Buccigross went on, it became less than white noise.
“We didn’t even hear Top 10 come on,” Ballstadt said.
Until, that is, he heard Levy say his name.
“Piedmont College’s Brady Ballstadt, going back, full-extension …”
Ballstadt looked up and saw it, the footage of his acrobatic catch at No. 2 on ESPN’s list of top 10 plays of the day.
“Every player lives for those kind of plays,” Ballstadt said. “They’re really fun to do.”
Ballstadt received immediate attention. He got dozens of text messages and even more tweets. Piedmont posted the SportsCenter segment on its Twitter account, and it spread across Division III sports accounts.
“I don’t know how many people keep up with Piedmont baseball,” Ballstadt said. “It was just crazy to see all the people texting and tweeting about it. It was just really cool.”
And it might not have happened if not for a little help from senior rightfielder Evan Gresham.
“He’s taken me under his wing,” Ballstadt said. “He’s been around these [players]. He told me to back up a little bit, so I had a few steps already. The kid took a real good swing on a well-placed pitch.
“I knew it was over my head. I just had a good read on it.”
Conventional wisdom was that one of Lambert’s more prominent baseball alums might show up first on SportsCenter one day. Maybe slugger Seth Beer (Clemson) or sparkplug Jeremy Johnson (Auburn) or slick-fielding Trey Logan (Georgia), pillars on Longhorns teams that won the 2014 Class AAAAAA state championship and a second straight Region 6-AAAAAA championship in 2015.
Ballstadt played only sparingly during his time at Lambert, but he, along with Vonderschmidt and Ben McCurley, caught the eye of Piedmont on the travel baseball circuit and signed with the Lions in January of 2015.
Ballstadt didn’t know what to expect going into this season. He’d spent four years at Lambert with barely an at-bat. Anything was possible; the Lions, after all, have a junior varsity team.
Instead, all three have been counted on this season. Vonderschmidt has made nine relief appearances and is 3-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. McCurley has made three starts and is 1-1.
Ballstadt got the start in the outfield on opening day. He’s played in every game since, hit his first collegiate double and triple and home run, and has a nice on-base percentage (.385) going into Friday’s weekend series against LaGrange.
And now a SportsCenter moment too.
“It’s been fantastic,” Ballstadt said. “I think all three of us would agree that we’ve never had the feeling of being on a team and really being wanted and being given an opportunity. It’s been really nice.”