College baseball: State's Bailey to step down after 2014 season
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia State baseball team will begin a new era next season when it begins play in the inaugural season of the Mountain East Conference.
The season will also mark the end of a legendary era for the Yellow Jackets.
West Virginia State Coach Calvin Bailey announced Thursday that he would step down from his position after the 2014 season, his 36th at the helm.
Bailey, 70, will enter his final season in Institute with a 1,029-466 career record, including a 619-154 mark in West Virginia Conference play. Bailey has also guided the program to 17 conference titles.
A Roane County native, Bailey took over the Yellow Jackets' program after Coach Bob Maxwell retired at the conclusion of the 1977 season.
Bailey said the decision to step down was a quick one, and is his final decision.
"This all came about on Monday," he said. "I had no plans and I still don't have any plans. I woke up Monday morning and I thought this would be the time. I just had that gut feeling and that's the way I coached.
"I just came in on Monday and talked to Sean Loyd, our athletic director, and told him that it was probably time to relinquish the reins. It's a final decision."
Bailey said lingering questions on the recruiting trail about his coaching longevity played a role in his choice.
"The main thing was that it was getting tougher and tougher to recruit. I kept getting questions like 'How much longer are you going to coach?' 'Are you going to be there until my son graduates?' and players just wanted to know how much longer I was going to coach.
"It made recruiting tougher, and it was the type of thing that was just getting more and more frustrating to try to renew and bring in the kind of players that we wanted to replace the seniors that had graduated."
Bailey said he would have concluded his coaching career at the conclusion of the 2013 season if not for a promise he made to his upcoming senior class.
"I have a senior group that when I recruited, I assured I would coach until they graduated and this coming year those kids will be seniors," he said.
One of those rising seniors, former Nitro standout Andrew Pickering, was thankful that Bailey was returning. Pickering hit .369 with seven homers and 43 RBI as a junior.
"It means a lot to the seniors for him to come back for us," Pickering said. "I was shocked when I heard about it, but hopefully we can come back for his last year and get him one final ring."
Bailey said that daily interaction with the team is what he'll miss most.
"I'm going to miss the players and practices," Bailey said. "Just to see a pimply faced boy come in at 17 or18 years old and leave a 22 or 23-year-old man, that's what I'm going to miss the most.
"Just the everyday interrelationships with them and preparing them for the game will be missed."
Bailey came to West Virginia State as a student in 1964, where he played football alongside his brother Jim.
But baseball was Cal Bailey's first athletic love.
After garnering all-conference honors during his sophomore season in 1966, he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He left professional baseball in 1971 and returned to State, where he was hired as the Recruitment Coordinator for Admissions.
During his tenure at State, Bailey said he has received "lots of other" collegiate and professional job offers, but never really considered leaving his alma mater.
"I was offered a Division I job in 1998 and was assured by the Vice President and the Athletic Director that we could be middle of the pack in the conference and they'd be happy. I asked them, 'What would I do after thirty losses? I can't sleep after one loss'
"Sid Thrift, the scout the signed me, offered me a job in professional ball when he was Pittsburgh's general manager, but West Virginia State is honestly the only place I ever wanted to coach. They gave me my budget and trusted me to do the right thing. I've been very, very lucky and I couldn't ask for anything more."
At last count Bailey had 82 former players that were now professional, collegiate, high school or middle school coaches.
Seeing his former pupils succeed has also been a pleasure for Bailey, one he will continue to enjoy after stepping down.
"It really makes me feel good to watch all the players that are now high school coaches. I like to see them play and watch them compete with their pride and their way of handling themselves. That's really refreshing to me."
Current St. Albans Coach and former Yellow Jackets second baseman Rick Whitman was surprised by the news.
"When you think about West Virginia State, you think about Cal Bailey," Whitman said. "He's built that program to what it is.
"The big thing Cal prides himself on is being a teacher. Not only has he taught a lot of guys baseball, he's taught a lot of guys how to be good people. Just look that the guys that played for him that are now coaches."
Whitman played at State from 1992-96. He has been the coach at St. Albans since 1998. Other Kanawha Valley coaches who learned the game under Bailey include Nitro's Steve Pritchard and Buffalo's Jimmy Tribble.
"That's the ultimate compliment to a coach, when you coach people and they want to go on and do what you did for them," Whitman said. "That speaks volumes for what he has accomplished over there. West Virginia State baseball won't be the same without Cal, that's for sure."
Contact Michael Dailey at email@example.com or 304-348-1735. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelDaileyWV