MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Each weekend, former Belmont University baseball star Brady Cooper preaches the word at New Vision Baptist Church, one of the biggest churches in Murfreesboro.
During each sermon, the former Riverdale High School standout brings together lessons from three of his favorite things in life ‑‑ baseball, the outdoors and God. His journey started almost 30 years ago as a young Warrior on the diamond.
Back then, times were different. The city was in the beginning stages of expansion and there were only two high schools, Riverdale and Oakland.
Cooper said he remembers playing their rivals during school hours, and then during the summer those same rivals became teammates during summer ball. He played shortstop at Riverdale from 1985 until 1988.
The next step in his journey took him to Belmont after Middle Tennessee State University did not offer him a scholarship. He had his chance for revenge during his first college start at third base for the Bruins against the Blue Raiders.
Well, he got a hit on his first at bat, but was picked off at first a couple of pitches later.
After four years at Belmont, Cooper said he knew he was not good enough for professional baseball, but while in college he felt God was calling him to the pulpit.
“I felt like God was calling me into the ministry while I was at Belmont,” Cooper said. “It was a great opportunity because Belmont had a school of religion. So I entered into it and my undergraduate was in biblical studies.”
He quickly made the adjustment to post-college life as soon as the baseball season ended during his senior year back in 1992. The day after his final college game, he was back in town running the youth ministry at New Vision.
He would stay at the church for seven years, and then he moved to a church in Hendersonville. However, he knew one day he would come back home.
In 2003, Cooper got the chance to return back to New Vision, and he has been there ever since.
To say a lot has changed here in Murfreesboro would be an understatement. The area has become one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, and New Vision has become one of the biggest churches in the area.
“It has been great being back in Murfreesboro,” Cooper said. “This is where I went to high school, and getting the chance to pastor a church in your hometown is so much fun. A lot of the same people I went to high school with I get to see them and watch their kids grow up.”
Speaking of kids, he has two sons of his own, Clay and Will, and both of them went to one of the new school systems here in town that was not around when Brady was in high school. Will is a 2011 graduate of Siegel High, and he played second base like his dad for the Stars.
“It is hard to root against Riverdale because that is where I went to high school,” Cooper said.
His youngest son, Clay is an eighth-grader at Siegel Middle and pitches for the baseball team. Brady enjoys watching his sons play the same sport he loved playing as a kid.
“I enjoy watching them play, a lot more than me ever playing,” Cooper said. “I never forced them to play, but they both wanted to play. I was willing to work with them. It is something we have done together.”
Another hobby Cooper enjoys is hunting and fishing, especially with Clay. Each week, he ties those trips outdoors, along with baseball and golf, in weekly devotionals for men, which are posted online.
“I love that. It is a great way to use my love for the outdoors, and my love for the Lord to reach out to other men,” Cooper said.
However, the biggest joy he gets out of preaching is seeing the difference it makes in people’s lives.
“Being involved, and seeing God’s impact in people’s lives, and seeing change I love,” Cooper said. “Being a church where we are involved in the community and seeing the community get better. Getting ministries in the prison and inner city housing projects is exciting for me.”
Overall, Cooper believes when done right, sports can teach life lessons, especially about leadership.
“Sports are a great training ground for leadership in the future,” he said. “I think they are great, and they can be very damaging, too. They can sometimes play a bigger part in our lives than we really need to be, but at their best they can really impart some values that serve you well in the future.”
He has put those values from the diamond and the outdoors to good use while teaching God’s word each weekend at New Vision.