Inductee spotlight: Mark Bailey — Glendale, Missouri State, Houston Astros standout

By
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In baseball, everybody’s got a story – some better than others. And, for Mark Bailey, his is the stuff that Little Leaguers dream of.

Sure, he was often one or two years younger than most of his classmates while playing on ball fields and public parks in Springfield during the 1970s. In fact, he was 16 years old during the first 3 ½ months of his high school senior year.

And yet the kid who dreamed the big dreams – and who led Glendale High School’s and Missouri State University’s baseball programs to success – worked his way to the top, playing seven seasons in the big leagues and later, as a coach, helping the Houston Astros win the 2005 National League pennant.

All of which is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is proud to induct Bailey with the Class of 2017. He will be honored as part of the Baseball Luncheon presented by the Ozarks Coca-Cola/Dr Pepper Bottling Company, set for 11 a.m. Thursday, May 25 at the University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield.

{For tickets, call 417-889-3100 & check out the flyer.}

Mark Bailey

“I was just one of those kids who always had a ball in my hand,” said Bailey, the first Missouri State player to reach the big leagues. “A lot of it came naturally for me. I was one of those kids who was outside all day long. Especially in our neighborhood, we’d walk down to Oak Grove and Grand and we’d play all day. My first team, I was 6 or 7 and I’m still friends with those guys.”

What a career it has been for Bailey, who made his big-league debut in April 1984 and, a year later, was the catcher who gloved the 4,000th strikeout by the legendary Nolan Ryan. He later played for the San Francisco Giants but eventually returned to Houston as the big-league bullpen coach for eight seasons in the mid-2000s, including on the Astros’ first-ever World Series team.

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“Reaching the pinnacle of the baseball world and to be a small part of that World Series is something that I will always cherish,” Bailey said, “and I’m still extremely humbled by that whole experience.”

In many respects, Bailey could have walked away from the game several times in his youth. Because his parents enrolled him in school at such a young age, his classmates always had the advantage of more playing experience.

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Fortunately for him, a series of events in his late teens and early 20s made his big-league dreams a reality.

For one, in the summer before his freshman year at then-Southwest Missouri State, Bailey added several inches and muscle to his frame. From there, coach Bill Rowe (MSHOF Legend 2016) became a positive influence and, eventually, the Astros converted Bailey into a catcher, creating his ticket to the big leagues.

“That summer (after high school), I had a pretty good summer in American Legion ball,” Bailey said. “I grew into my body and matured. … I had kind of been a slow starter. But I just kind of grew into everything.”

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Bailey graduated from Glendale High School in 1979, a year after helping the baseball team win the AA state championship and Ozark Conference. There, he also was an All-State and all-conference basketball standout.

Even better, Bailey stayed home for college, playing basketball and baseball for SMS. In basketball, he started in more than half of the team’s 73 games in which he played over three seasons.

In baseball, the switch-hitting middle infielder helped the Bears reach the 1982 NCAA Division II College World Series. He was a two-time D-II All-American as well as All-Region and All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA).

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“(Rowe) has always been there – not just for me but for everybody,” Bailey said. “I remember he picked me up and took me to a restaurant on Sunshine Street and offered a scholarship in both sports.”

Bailey skipped his senior year at SMS, signing for $14,000 – peanuts by today’s standards – after the Astros selected him in the sixth round of the 1982 draft.

That fall, with two days left in instructional league, Astros catching instructor Gary Tuck floated the idea of moving behind the plate. Bailey reached the big leagues 19 months later.

Mark Bailey-headshot

“In some respects, I had a lot of advantages,” Bailey said of catching. “I got started late, so I had fresh legs and a fresh arm. And, since it was a new position, you’re wanting to learn.”

After his 13 seasons as a player, Bailey turned to coaching, with the 2017 season marking his 20th as a coach in the Astros organization.

“Having a career in baseball is not something you can expect,” Bailey said. “Sometimes I sit back and think I’ve been fortunate. At the same time, I feel like I’ve worked hard for it and pushed forward.”

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MAY 25 — BASEBALL CELEBRATION

BILL VIRDON STATUE UNVEILING

Bill Virdon

When: 8:30 a.m. continental breakfast, 9 a.m. unveiling

Where: Legends Walkway of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, 3861 E. Stan Musial Drive in southeast Springfield (about one mile east of the U.S. 60-65 interchange)

What: Unveiling of larger-than-life statue of West Plains grad and Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder making a game-saving catch in Game 1 of the 1960 World Series

BASEBALL LUNCHEON PRESENTED BY OZARKS COCA-COLA/DR PEPPER BOTTLING COMPANY

Baseball inductees-collage

When: 11 a.m. Thursday, May 25

Where: University Plaza Hotel & Convention Center in downtown Springfield

President’s Award: Hiland Dairy’s Mark Speight

Inductees: Mark Bailey (Glendale High School/Missouri State/Houston Astros), the late John Donaldson (Glasgow HS, Negro Leagues), former Westran and Sturgeon coach Kelly Odneal, sports writer Rob Rains (Kickapoo/St. Louis media), baseball coach Mark Stratton (Glendale High School/Drury University).

Diamond 9 Awards:  Doug Bennett (Hillcrest High School/University of Arkansas), Dan Bishop (Springfield Central High School/Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees), Jack Funderburk (Southwest Baptist University), Chelsea King Goodin (Strafford High School/Drury University), Kellie Becher Kessler (Missouri State University), , Danny Powers (Carl Junction High School/University of Central Missouri/Minnesota Twins), Kyle Rapinchuk (Branson High School/College of the Ozarks), Stefanie Standley (Lamar High School/University of Missouri) and Michael Vincent (Hollister High School/John Brown University/Phillips University/Cincinnati Reds).

Tickets: Call 417-889-3100. Sponsorship tables are $400 and include recognition in the printed program and an autographed print. An individual ticket is $40, and a head table ticket is $100. Numerous other sponsorships, including congratulatory ads, also are available.