CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. — It's not that Tucker Bradley was happy to learn he has a medical condition that could remain with him indefinitely.
For the Gordon Lee High School senior baseball star, though, a diagnosis of Graves' disease turned his athletic career — and life — around.
The condition, which causes the thyroid to work excessively, is especially tough on athletes. Before diagnosis and treatment, Bradley couldn't gain weight, was tired most of the time, even minor injuries would linger and his heart rate would increase dramatically during games.
"My coaches throughout the years have noticed my heart rate would go crazy during games," Bradley said. "It was ridiculous how fast it was beating. We didn't know what it was until recently when my mom noticed it last fall and took me to the doctor."
With medication controlling his condition, the future Auburn Tiger added muscle quickly, gaining 20 pounds. He felt so good, he joined the school's basketball team and soon was in the best shape of his life.
The added strength and stamina have really shown on the baseball field, where he has helped the Trojans to a 16-3 record and a No. 1 ranking in Georgia's Class AA.
Bradley entered Thursday batting .566 with six home runs, six doubles, three triples, 22 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. He has struck out only twice in 68 plate appearances and carries an insane on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.774.
And after pitching very little his first three seasons of high school, he has become the team's ace. In 24 innings, Bradley is 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA and has allowed 13 hits and four walks while striking out 42 batters.
"He's healthier than I've ever seen him," Gordon Lee coach Mike Dunfee said. "He's always had the ability, but he's bigger, faster and stronger now.
"The other aspect, to me, is that mentally he's very focused and driven. He's not letting little things get to him. He's such a competitor that, as a freshman and sophomore, he would get thrown off. It's really been phenomenal to watch."
The mental growth, Dunfee believes, is largely due to Bradley deciding to play a different sport this past winter.
"I think basketball helped him more than anything because it got his mind away from baseball," Dunfee said. "Kids need to play multiple sports because it gives them time to breathe. When they come back, there's that excitement and hunger. If they do one sport 360 days a year, they get tired of it. I know kids are afraid of getting hurt, but you can get hurt doing anything."
Bradley, who had taken few breaks from baseball for years, agreed with his coach. He also believes the different level of conditioning required for basketball has helped this spring.
"I'm in really good shape, the best of my life, due to basketball," he said. "Everybody says I'm quicker. I really enjoyed playing it, and it got my mind off baseball for a while, and that was nice to have fun enjoying another sport."
Auburn even told Bradley his duties with the Tigers might expand in light of his pitching success.
"I love the new role," said Bradley, who stepped into Gordon Lee's top pitching spot with University of Georgia recruit Chaney Rogers injured. "With Chaney hurt, it means a lot to do what I'm doing. Outfield is my passion, but I love pitching.
"The Auburn coaches are really interested in my pitching. I talked to their assistant coach, and they want to see what I can do on the mound."
For now, Bradley and his teammates are focused on positioning themselves for the playoffs. The Trojans finished as the Class A state runner-up during Bradley's freshman and sophomore seasons before falling in the quarterfinals in their first season in Class AA.
"I think we can make another run at the state title," Bradley said. "Our bats have come around, and we've got the pitching with me and Ethan Dalton and hopefully with Chaney coming back. That's what we're all after."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.