Bailey McGrath Reflects on Baseball Career
BRIDGEPORT — Bailey McGrath has played baseball since he was 3 years old. He is now 23 and has seen some pretty good curveballs in his days, but none were as nasty as the one thrown by the NCAA earlier this month.
After having a breakout season for West Liberty University last spring in which he batted .338, the fifth-year senior red-shirt was on his way to another fine season at the plate only to have it wiped out when the NCAA opted to cancel all spring sports due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was sitting on my living room couch at school with three teammates,” McGrath recalled of when he found out about the season being canceled. “We got a text from Coach (Eric) Burkle saying the season was over because of the coronavirus. It (the news) hit hard … really, really hard.”
McGrath, a Bridgeport High School graduate where he excelled in football, basketball and baseball, was hitting .325 this season with 13 hits in 14 games for the 4-10 Hilltoppers.
“We practiced on a Thursday getting ready for a weekend series at Glenville State. Then classes were canceled, the weekend was canceled and then the season was canceled,” he said. “All in one day.
“It sucks. This is how my career is going to end. That’s the hardest part.”
McGrath played in 88 career games at West Liberty. His first two seasons he sat behind some pretty good players. He missed his entire junior season with a torn rotator cuff, but bounced back to have an oustanding 2018-19 campaign when he tied good friend Colton Coss for the team batting title.
He started 44 games and played in 45, recording 46 hits and driving in 19 runs. Twelve of his hits were doubles.
“We were excited about this season. We struggled at the start but we were playing good competition,” the third baseman/designated hitter said. “We were looking forward to conference (MEC) play because that’s our biggest goal of the season.
“This team was the closest team I’ve ever been on at West Liberty. We were tight-knit with each other. We played for the guy next to us and not for ourselves. Baseball is an individual sport but it is a team game. We just wanted to win and not worry about individual stats. That epitomized our team.”
West Liberty head coach Eric Burkle said McGrath was a joy to coach and be around.
“You could tell he loved the game just by his enthusiasm and the way he went about things,” he said. “He loved the game of baseball.”
Burkle said he received the utmost of compliments from McGrath during his exit interview.
“He came into my office and said ‘thank you coach.’ I asked him what for and he replied, ‘I’m 5-9 and overweight. I wasn’t a baseball player but you made me one,'” Burkle said.
For his career, McGrath hit .316 (71-225) and drove in 27 runs. He had 12 doubles and a pair of triples. He will be graduated in May with a degree of elementary education and a special education minor. He did his student teaching at West Liberty Elementary School.
There was some talk about the NCAA granting spring sport athletes an additional year of eligibility. However, he is unsure what his choice would be.
“It would be a consideration but I would have to think long and hard about it,” McGrath said. “To dedicate 20 years of your life to something and only be 23, I loved every part of it.”
McGrath also played several seasons with the Barton Braves in the Ohio Valley Baseball League, as well as an adult league in Gnadenhutten.