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Toops: From swinging to singing

When Brady Toops' professional baseball career ended recently, he used his signing bonus to fund what he hopes will be the next endeavor in his life; a singing career.

When Brady Toops' professional baseball career ended recently, he used his signing bonus to fund what he hopes will be the next endeavor in his life; a singing career.

Toops recently recorded his first CD, Only You, which features seven tracks of Christian acoustic rock songs that he wrote himself.

"I picked up a guitar my freshman year at Arkansas University," said Toops, who is still the area's all-time career hits leader while a standout catcher at New London-Spicer. "I didn't take any lessons. I just hung around some people that could play and learned some things from them. Basically, I taught myself."

Toops sang and played guitar at the Skylark Mall in Willmar over the holidays and, more recently, at the Community Christian School in Willmar.

It was while Toops was being bounced around in the minor leagues that he became interested in pursuing a music career.

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After graduating from high school in 2000, where he was a Tribune Hengstler-Ranweiler Award nominee along with his triplet brother Casey and sister Mickie, Toops went on to star for Arkansas and became a hero when he belted a grand slam home run in the ninth inning to beat Wichita State 11-9 and put the Razorbacks in the regional final. The next day, Toops was drafted in the 10th round by the St. Louis Cardinals.

But Toops quickly learned that there are no guarantees in life and that being a professional athlete isn't all glamour and glitz. Scouts raved about how his defense and ability to call a game was at the major league level. But after playing his prep and collegiate baseball career using aluminum bats, he struggled somewhat while trying to adjust to wood bats and stellar pitching, and the offensive prowess that had always come easy for the fluid left-handed swinger now was now part of his downfall.

He started his career in the Rookie League with the Cardinals and quickly ascended up the minor-league ladder, getting promoted to "Short" Class A with the New Jersey Cardinals, then to "Low" Class A with the Quad City Swing, where he became a Midwest League All-Star.

Toops them was promoted to "High" Class A with the Palm Beach Cardinals and helped them win the Florida State League.

"After my first year of professional baseball, I went to Kansas City and basically hid out. I had played baseball for nine straight months, including college. I was living in a town of 10,000 people and we played before only a couple of hundred fans. The Wal-Mart in that town closed at 10 p.m. I didn't know anyone, I went into a slump in the second half of the year and was just kind of worn out and needed a break from baseball."

In Kanas City, Toops had checked out the International House if Prayer, a ministry that he "fell in love with the people there."

After spending time there, Toops was ready to resume his baseball career, but was eventually given his release from the Cardinals in 2006 even though he felt he had a good chance to keep rising up the organization's ladder. He returned to New London and played town baseball that summer and played with his younger brother, Skip. His agent continued to find another organization for him to sign with. Two teams showed interest but nothing developed. So Toops returned to Kansas City where he lived for eight months.

"I looked at that as a sign from God," said Toops. "It was time to do something else with my life."

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Toops still had the baseball itch, though, as moved to Austin and played last summer with Casey, helping that town baseball team finish as state runners-up in Class B. Brady was selected to the All-Tournament team.

Toops then discussed his situation with his parents and decided to do two things.

"I wanted to go back to Arkansas and finish school," he said. "I had to write a thesis to get my final three credits. And I wanted to work on getting a CD out."

He spent two months at Arkansas and, this past October, finishing his 43-page thesis on the history of baseball at the University of Arkansas. He eventually wants to write a book about the subject and also include his experiences there.

He then began working hard to get his singing career off the ground.

"I made a lot of calls to get all the different things that go into making a CD organized," said Toops. "I initiated it and funded it with my signing bonus from baseball. My baseball career opened the door for my music career."

He produced the CD in Wisconsin through the Jared Logan Recording Co. with the help of music connections he was given from people he met in Kansas City.

Toops now has a much passion for music as he did for sports.

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"This is a new way to express myself," he explained. "When you're an athlete, people only see you as a jock. I wanted to tap into other things. I have no regrets with baseball. I wouldn't trade those experiences for anything in the world. But this is what I want to do now."

Toops has a concern for the younger generation and wants to be role model.

"I want to be a voice to the next generation," he said. "I love kids and I want to be someone they can look up to."

Whether or not he hits a home run with his singing career, you can bet Toops isn't going to go without taking a mighty swing at it.

Toops' CD can be purchased for $10 and is available from Good News Book Store in the Skylark Mall in Willmar, at Pond Mercantile and Heritage Falls Market in New London, or by going online bradytoops.com

He is currently touring throughout Minnesota with speaking and singing engagements. To book Toops, go to bradytoops.com

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