For 44 years, Janet Bailey was a sponsor of USSSA Midwest Softball.
Tonight, she’ll be inducted into the United States Specialty Sports Association Midwest Softball Hall of Fame.
The ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight in Overland Park, Kansas. Her husband, Kent, is already in the Hall of Fame for his years as a coach, and her indicution will make them just the third husband and wife couple to be inducted.
As a sponsor, Janet Bailey donated money, but she also did more than that.
“I kept score and I kept stats and I made travel-plans and telephone calls, cleaned uniforms,” Bailey said.
Much of her work came because Kent was a softball coach. He was part of three USSSA world championships and 25 state championships for the Dodge City Budweiser’s Masters team.
“It was my husband’s desire that I went along with,” Janet Bailey said. “He loved it and I wanted to be with him, so my choice was either stay home by myself or go, so I love going, so I went.”
For the Bailey's, it was more than a game.
“It was never a hobby to us,” Kent Bailey said. “I use the phrase: ‘If most people take winning as life or death, we took it a lot seriouser than that. It’s a fact.’”
Part of what came along with that was the establishment of a family element to softball.
“My husband always it, for the team, he made it all about family,” Janet Bailey said. “He always wanted the wives to go. He didn’t hesitate making more reservations, he liked the family there. Not just his players, but their family: Their wives and their children.”
Because of this, a kind of “softball family” was created.
“There will some of the players’ kids at her Hall of Fame deal,” Kent Bailey said. “The kids there grew up and knew Janet and they’ll be there Saturday night.”
Dodge City has a history of great softball. Dodge City won two straight state titles, back-to-back, in the 1960’s and that continued in the 1970’s. And this wasn’t a program affiliated with Dodge City High School, or youth sports: It was adult competitive softball.
“If you go over (to the softball field) right now, everybody basically starts in the beer-league, where you play, you have fun, you drink beer if you win or lose,” he said. “The scenario is I never played beer-league ball, we were just competitive, and it’s adult, competitive softball at the highest level.”
It was a traveling-team as well.
“We didn’t just play in Dodge City,” Janet Bailey said. “We had to travel every weekend and when Kent had the Major team, we flew every weekend. We did that for three years.”
They walked off the diamonds in 2012 as they won their third Master’s world championship.