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By Matt DeFilippo
Elizabeth Goodman '00 remembers first meeting the new Colby softball coach. "I walked into his office, he introduced himself, and he said, 'So, are you any good?'" she recalled. Goodman was caught off guard but eventually came to appreciate Dick Bailey's directness and honesty, his intensity and passion. "I like knowing that when I go to him, he'll tell me exactly what he thinks," Goodman said. "I learn every day from him. He cares about us so much as players and as people, too.
"With me being so far away from home, he's definitely been an important male figure in my life."
Bailey, who recently completed his fourth season at Colby with an 18-12 record, has had that kind of effect on people throughout his life: as a softball coach and dean of students at St. Joseph's College, where he picked up most of his 316 career wins; as a Marine who served 20 years and took shrapnel in Vietnam; as a concerned citizen who made a brief foray into politics chairing John McCain's recent presidential campaign in Maine.
"At times, I think he comes across as gruff," said Candice Parent, one of Bailey's assistant coaches, "but that doesn't take away from how much he truly cares about people."
His first coaching experience was in South Africa, where he was on military assignment from 1973 to 1976. As a former star athlete (he earned a basketball scholarship and is in the St. Anselm College Hall of Fame) he joined a Cape Town athletic club. Bailey was asked to coach softball players ranging from 18 to 40, and he immediately sent a message by benching a handful of regular starters. That established a theme in Bailey's coaching career-he's going to do whatever he can to field the best team.
Bailey, who looks remarkably young for someone in his mid-60s, continues that intensity at Colby. He has made few concessions to age, though he's carried nitroglycerin pills in his pocket for 10 years. "It's the hereditary thing," Bailey said. "I've got an artery that's closed 90 percent. Another one's 40 percent. I take my medications and stuff. Usually, when I'm out there screaming at an umpire, their comment is, 'Coach, should you be out here screaming at me?' I always say, 'Well, my nitro's in my right pocket if I keel over.'"
Last year, Bailey's third at Colby, the White Mules posted their first-ever 20-win season. Bailey believes this year's team was even better. "Six of the starters are freshmen, sophomores. For me to get someone in that may knock those kids out of starting positions-[it's] a challenge for me to find someone that good. Not that I ever stop looking."
To gain an edge in recruiting he buys The Boston Globe every Thursday during the spring because he knows it will list the top pitchers and hitters in each high school conference. He has a folder with 60 or 70 girls who might attend Colby next year who indicated an interest in softball. Bailey knows he will be extremely lucky if two of those players are good enough to make his team.
Bailey doesn't leave softball at the field house office. Sometimes at dinner with his wife, Faith, "I put on this thousand-yard stare," Bailey said. "And she says, 'Where are you now?'"
"He's someplace between first base and third," Faith Bailey said.
The Baileys have been married for 41 years. The gruff coach will express his love for his wife extemporaneously and sincerely. "At one point when we were in Florida," Parent remembered, "he just put his arm around her and said, 'She is my soul mate and I love her.'"
"I serve at the pleasure of the athletic department here at Colby and at the pleasure of my darling wife," Bailey said. "If one of them says, 'I don't want you to coach anymore,' then I pack up my bags. I hope that doesn't happen for a while because I love what I do."
Matt DeFilippo is a sports writer for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel, where this story first appeared. It is reprinted with permission.
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