Scott Bailes taught me how to throw a circle change.
During the winter of my sophomore year in high school, just after buying my new George Brett model Wilson mitt, Dad signed me up for a few lessons at Scott Bailes’ Sports World. A multi-sport training facility years ahead of its time, Scott worked with me on how to hold and when to throw a change up. At spring baseball tryouts, I threw the change up in front of Coach Pittman (Day #62) who commented favorably on it, which is impressive because I basically threw slow and slower. My curveball was slow with a loop. Gravity worked.
I think I pitched in five or six games that spring season and threw the circle change in all of them.
Scott Bailes pitched for Parkview High School, then Missouri State University, and for nine years in the major leagues — four years with Cleveland, three years with California, and two with Texas. I still have a stack of his baseball cards and debated whether or not to bring them with me. I chose to leave them at home and made no mention of them to Scott.
We met at the indoor training facility next to Hammons Field while the MSU team was practicing. Coach Guttin (Day #31) greeted both of us and Scott helped me secure a game of catch next week with Nick Petree, the 2012 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year, and get a solid lead on a second game. Conversation was regularly interrupted by the echoes of baseballs exploding off of aluminum bats.
World Series winning manager John Farrell was Scott’s best friend and best teammate both in Cleveland and California. His favorite catch partners were Mark Eichhorn, who kept him laughing by imitating pitchers in their daily games of catch, and Jim Abbott.
“Jim Abbott was just amazing. He was a better fielder than I was and he threw harder than I did. He was an incredible athlete and he did it all with one hand.”
He said that players who spoke in first person generally scared him while he was on the mound.
“During my playing days, that would’ve been Bo Jackson and Rickey Henderson.”
Scott dreaded facing Rickey Henderson.
“If you walked him, he’d start talking to you from first base. In third person. ‘Next pitch, Rickey’s gonna go.’ And he did.”
In 1988, on Opening Day in Cleveland, Scott pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout against the Baltimore Orioles facing the likes of Cal Ripken, Jr., Eddie Murray, and Fred Lynn.
“There were 55,000 people in the stands and you could feel the crowd yelling. To do that in front of a crowd that big is unforgettable.”
He also threw 8+ innings in a win against the Yankees and won the NBC Player of the Game award. He played in Cleveland when Major League was being filmed and spent a couple days hanging out with Charlie Sheen, who wasn’t bad on the mound or at taking swings during batting practice.
Scott said it has been a minimum of 2 years since he last played catch, which I find hard to believe as sharp as his curveballs were breaking. In the cage as far from the hitters as possible, Scott threw change ups and two-seam fastballs and curveballs and I have no doubt he could make me look silly if I stepped up to the plate against him.
“Baseball teaches you to be humble, above and beyond anything else. Don’t ever believe people when they try and tell you how good you are. You’re never as good as your good days. You’re never as bad as your bad days. Just stay humble.”
Eleven months of playing catch complete.
Only one more to go.
Happy birthday, Bo Jackson!