After attending her ninth Super Bowl this month and watching “Uncle Tommy” win his sixth NFL championship as the quarterback for the New England Patriots, senior shortstop Maya Brady of Westlake Village Oaks Christian is ready to take over the family sports spotlight this spring.
How good a softball player is Brady?
She’s headed to 11-time NCAA champion UCLA next season, and veteran Lions coach Pete Ackerman needed about 10 seconds of silence before finally answering the question.
“The only reason my answer is taking so long is I’ve been coaching so long,” he said. “As far as shortstops Maya’s caliber, there’s Crystl Bustos and Jessica Mendoza.”
Bustos, a former Canyon Country Canyon standout, and Mendoza, a star from Camarillo, are among the most decorated players in softball history.
Brady hit .519 with 10 home runs, 32 RBIs and 54 hits last season. She’s rated as the No. 2 recruit in the nation by FloSoftball.
Her mother, Maureen, Tom Brady’s oldest sister, was 111-10 as a pitcher at San Mateo Hillsdale High from 1988-91 and became an All-American at Fresno State.
“I think it’s kind of ingrained in our Brady family morals to work hard,” Maya said. “I’m not a pitcher, but she’s taught me the mental side of the game.”
Ackerman said the highlight for him regarding Brady’s career was the moment she enrolled as a 13-year-old freshman. He said he immediately recognized how unique she was from her first day on the field — her athleticism, powerful arm and the ball popping off her bat.
“What kids are really short of nowadays is softball knowledge of the game,” Ackerman said. “It’s become so specialized with all the clubs and individual coaches, but like the old days, she actually knows the game. That makes her a very valuable asset on the field.”
Brady has been playing softball since she was 4 and joined one of the country’s top club programs, the Orange County Batbusters, when she was 10. She recalled her mom driving her to Orange County on Monday nights for hitting practice and not returning home until midnight.
“I’d be sleeping in the car while my mom drove me home,” she said.
UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez played against Brady’s mom in college and remembers her as a “cut-throat competitor.” She said Maya is just as competitive but does it with a smile.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete,” she said. “Her leadership ability is off the charts. She’s really special.”
Helping influence Brady is her famous uncle she calls “Uncle Tommy.”
She sounded a little nonchalant about attending her ninth Super Bowl in Atlanta, but admitted, “This one was definitely special,” referring to the Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Rams.
She said even though “Tommy” is a Michigan grad, he has promised to become a fan of UCLA softball when she arrives in Westwood. She said she has been dreaming about playing for the Bruins since she was 10.
As for what she has learned from the future Hall of Fame quarterback, Maya said, “I think it’s made me the athlete I am today. It’s taught me a lot about working hard and never giving up. He’s a big, big guy in my life and he’s always there for me, and I love him so much.”