2014 season will be Bailey's last at State
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- True to form, Cal Bailey went with his gut.The veteran West Virginia State baseball coach announced Thursday that the 2014 season will be his last.
Bailey finished the 2013 season with more than 1,000 career victories, one of only seven coaches in NCAA Division II history to win that many games. He will carry a career record of 1,029-466 into his final season.
Bailey's career record in West Virginia Conference play was 619-154 with 17 conference championships. This was the final year for the WVC, which will disband with most of its former members heading to the Mountain East Conference.
"I didn't have a plan until Monday,'' said Bailey, who just completed his 36th season with the Yellow Jackets. "It was instinctive. It was my idea. I didn't resign. I didn't quit. I made a choice that this would be the proper time to go.
"It's been a good life. Honestly, I thought I'd die on the ballfield. It's just a labor of love. Things just came so naturally as far as the coaching was concerned it actually seemed easy most of the time. I've had chances to move into professional ball and Division I ball, but this is my school.
"I feel good about everything that's happened and everything the school has done for my family and me. I'd rather go out on top than go out on the bottom. I think whoever comes in next will continue the tradition.''
Bailey said most players he recruited over the past several years wanted to know whether he would be around for their entire careers.
"I've been faced with this the last four or five years,'' said the 70-year-old coach. "Almost all of my recruits ask me how much longer I'm going to coach and I don't know, and that's what I tell them. It's getting more difficult to recruit when there's apprehension of who's going to be in charge, and rightfully so.
"I don't want to bring anyone in under any misgivings that I'm not going to be here, and the school deserves better than that. My seniors this year is my last group where I assured some of them that I would coach as long as they were here. That guarantee is going to be finalized. If I can't recruit the players that I want to maintain the kind of success that we've had then I don't need to be coaching.''
Bailey turned in one of his best coaching jobs this season after a 22-27 finish last year. State was 2-12 at one point before winning 28 of its last 34 games. The Yellow Jackets won the WVC's South Division and marched to the conference championship game before falling to Concord 11-4. State finished 30-18 overall with a 24-8 mark in the league.
"I know I've got a good year of coaching left,'' Bailey said. "This past year after about the eighth game was about as good a coaching job as I have done. I'm healthy. We have a good nucleus coming back. I think we're a couple of pitchers and a hitter away.''
Bailey said he learned to trust his instincts from former minor league manager Joe Morgan, who went on to guide the Boston Red Sox to the American League championship series in 1988 and 1990.
"My style of coaching was always to coach with my gut,'' Bailey said. "Most of the time I didn't even know the lineup until I got through dragging the field. Most of the time I didn't know who was going to be the starting pitcher until the game almost started.''
A native of Newton in Roane County and a graduate of Spencer High School, Bailey first came to Institute as a baseball player. He was named to the All-WVC team in 1966 and signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates to play professionally at the conclusion of that season. After playing professional baseball through the 1971 season, Bailey returned to work at State in the school's admissions office.
Bailey was named the head coach of the Yellow Jackets in 1978. He has been named WVC coach of the year eight times and was selected the state's college coach of the year in 1982. In 1999 and 2005 he was voted the North Atlantic Region coach of the year.
He guided the Yellow Jackets to the NCAA Division II North Atlantic Regional championship and a trip to the NCAA Division II World Series in 1999, when they finished third in the World Series and garnered a third-place finish in the final NCAA Division II poll.
In 2005, State captured its second North Atlantic Regional title and advanced to the World Series in Montgomery, Ala. The Jackets finished fifth that year.
Thirty-nine of Bailey's former players went on to play baseball professionally, including a handful that made it to the Major Leagues.
Bailey said he has accomplished nearly all of his goals.
"Everything but win the World Series,'' he said. "We have a lot of former players who are successful. We graduated over 80 percent of our people and I think I probably had it better than I deserve.
"I've worked with a lot of good people and a lot of people have helped me. The faculty and administration has been supportive. I don't think I've ever had an occasion where there's any animosity at all.''
Bailey was adamant that he isn't leaving the game.
"I'm not retiring,'' said Bailey, who gave up classroom duties a few years ago. "I don't expect to go someplace else and coach, but I'll probably be involved in baseball somehow. I might not get into anything. I've got a farm.
"I've had some chances to get into different things, everything from summer baseball to helping out at some high schools, even helping out with some stuff in professional ball. I just haven't sat down and thought it through and talked with the family and see how it is I want to stick around.''