CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- This week's West Virginia Conference baseball tournament sure won't be the first in Cal Bailey's long and successful career at West Virginia State, but it will be his last.
In fact, it will be everyone's last before the league dissolves and the Yellow Jackets and several other programs take their act to the newly formed Mountain East Conference.
Bailey, who has led State to 17 conference championships since taking over the program in 1978, will try to add an 18th and final title this week at Linda K. Epling Stadium in Beckley as the eight-team, double-elimination tournament gets underway at 9:30 a.m. today. The tournament will conclude on Saturday, weather permitting.
Bailey took a moment to reflect on the league, the conference tournament, and the history and memories he has made over the past 35 years.
"Honestly, I'm going to miss the conference - I wasn't a proponent of the new conference and, of course, no one asked me either," Bailey said. "There's a lot of history, a lot of friendships and schools, and playing them in a conference situation is what I'm going to miss. Now, I don't know how many of them will miss us.
"I remember playing in Parkersburg, at the old Watt Powell Park, in Bluefield, in Johnstown, in Beckley, and Princeton - I made a lot of friends in those places and I'll miss seeing them. Every place hosted us well and we made fans in each one of those towns."
Bailey has been around long enough to make those kinds of connections and to be filled with that sense of nostalgia, but his current players have not.
Bailey said he has spoken to his squad about the WVC's history and traditions on several occasions throughout the year.
"It's not a one-time lecture or anything like that," Bailey said. "They ask questions like, 'What about this? What about that? How was it when this happened?' And I tell them stories about things. Old players will come to see me sometime and they'll say they've heard of that guy and I'll tell a story about the conference tournament and just try to give them that sense of tradition."
Whether State's players have an appreciation for that tradition is unknown, but one thing is for certain - they are playing like a traditional Cal Bailey Yellow Jackets team, especially as of late.