With inclement weather closing in on Mirvac Beach recently, Chris
Jackson (1978) thought it best to don his Old Paradians windcheater in
setting out on
his brisk daily walk.
Along the way, Chris was approached by a nearby council worker who noticed the windcheater and asked if he was a former Parade student.
“We had a bit of a chat and the young bloke told me that he too was an old boy of the College,” Chris said.
“He told me his name was Bailey Pearce and that he finished his schooling at Parade in 2017. He said that he was a baseballer in the US College system in Missouri and that he was temporarily back in Melbourne due to the worsening COVID-19 situation in the States.
“I’m not sure that Parade would have too many baseballers so this may be a story of interest.”
Having paid Chris his regular spotter’s fee (only joking ‘Jacko’), this reporter duly tracked Bailey down and caught up with the 21 year-old over a coffee in Ivanhoe’s main drag.
So how does a kid from Melbourne’s northern suburbs end up a catcher with the Lake Michigan College Red Hawks?
“Well I started playing when I was 13, and it was at about that time that I went to a baseball game in America with my Dad and I really enjoyed it,” Bailey recalled.
“It was also when I crossed paths with another Old Paradian, Lewis Thorpe (2014), who two years ago completed his Major League Baseball debut with the Minnesota Twins.”
Throughout his Parade years, Bailey played the game at local level, firstly with Preston, then Fitzroy. Then in July 2017, midway through his VCE year, he completed a whirlwind tour of the United States - from Northern California to Portland to Idaho - to try his hand in tournaments.
“A couple of scouts happened to be in the stands having a look,” Bailey recalled, “and not long later I got an email from one of them telling me there was a potential scholarship available at Lake Michigan College with the Red Hawks. I thought ‘I may as well give it a go’ and that’s pretty much how it all came about.”
In July 2018, a few months after completing his VCE at Parade, Bailey made the move – the first of many in adjusting to college life in the American town of Benton.
In the first of Bailey’s two-year junior college scholarship, the Red Hawks, under new Head Coach Zac Wasserman’s watch, contested finals and knocked over the nation’s No.3 ranked team at the time Sinclaire Junior College
Of his own form in that Freshman year, Bailey said: “There were a few up and down stages, but I did alright”.
Bailey completed four semesters before being scouted by Missouri Valley College in Marshall prior to the pandemic – and has another two years to run with the Missouri Vikings.
Though the pandemic forced his return to Australia in March last year, it’s enabled Bailey time to overcome elbow ligaments torn with a simple pitch some ten months ago – and also presented him with the welcome chance to reunite with old classmates from the College he truly treasured.
“I loved Parade – heaps of space and just a great place to be,” Bailey proudly declared.
“I made friendships with a great bunch of blokes at Parade, blokes like Lionel McGlagan and Lucas Perri who I still keep in touch with. I was also taught by a terrific group of teachers there, my favourite Miss Thomas my homeroom teacher – a lovely person who’d do anything for you. ”
If Joe Biden can stop the curve then Bailey remains committed to his baseball calling.
“I hope to return to America in July to take on a full season from August,” he said. “A mate’s taking care of my car over there, so I also hope to take off to a few states see my friends.”
But Bailey’s also thinking long-term, and on completing his studies in physiotherapy in Missouri fully intends to return to Melbourne to pursue a career in physiotherapy . . . although he hasn’t ruled out joining the military either.
In reflecting on his experiences these past three years, Bailey was circumspect when asked if he’d encourage fellow Paradians to follow their sporting dreams to the home of the brave.
As he said: “It’s not for everyone, but if it’s something you really want to do, go for it”.
Images: Bailey Pearce, pictured at far left with fellow Red Hawks in Florida, March 2020; and in Ivanhoe, January 2021.