TEMPE, Ariz. -- There's one thing that Andrew Bailey wants his children to experience for sure -- to have the same kind of athletic upbringing that he did as a kid in New Jersey."When I was growing up, we always played multiple sports and got good at a bunch of
TEMPE, Ariz. -- There's one thing that Andrew Bailey wants his children to experience for sure -- to have the same kind of athletic upbringing that he did as a kid in New Jersey.
"When I was growing up, we always played multiple sports and got good at a bunch of different things," Bailey said. "That's what I'm going to teach my kids to do."
Bailey, who is competing to be the Angels' closer in Spring Training, recalled playing multiple sports back then. American Legion ball represented the best in youth baseball there, unlike the modern baseball culture of travel teams and year-round scouting events.
Many of the values he gained on the baseball diamond with his local American Legion team would have been lost otherwise, he said.
"Coming up in New Jersey, all we had was American Legion, and that was kind of the bread and butter of youth baseball," Bailey said. "[It created] the mentality of learning a lot about sacrifices from an early age in terms of just making a commitment to your teammates.
"I think youth sports is kind of a money-maker nowadays. Any kid who doesn't make a team, his dad goes out and makes his own [Amateur Athletic Union] team, which is fine, but the talent is very depleted in terms of quality of baseball.
"Back then, if you just weren't good enough, you just didn't play. You learn that, in youth sports and in life in general, you don't always get what you want ..."
Bailey made it clear -- he doesn't want his children stuck in the year-round cycle of playing the same sport.
"My kids will play multiple sports, and if they don't want to play multiple sports or want to stick to one, then take a season or two off and train and do something different," Bailey said. "We just became way more athletic that way [as kids]."
Of course, Bailey's baseball and overall athletic upbringing didn't put him on any sort of fast track to become a professional athlete. He went undrafted out of Paul VI High School in Haddonfield, N.J., and moved to Staten Island, N.Y., to attend Wagner College.
He was drafted after his junior year, but stayed an extra year to complete his education. The Athletics made him their sixth-round selection in the 2006 MLB Draft. Three seasons later, he was in the big leagues and an All-Star. He would repeat the feat again the next season, and he tallied 75 saves through his first three Major League seasons.
Injuries have halted Bailey's progress since. He missed the entire 2014 season due to labrum and capsule damage in his pitching shoulder, and 2016 marked the first time since 2011 that he'd appeared in more than 40 games.
The Angels signed Bailey in early August, and brought him back as a potential closer candidate after he tallied six saves and a 2.38 ERA in 12 appearances.
New Jersey baseball has a strong foothold in the Majors, with players such as Rick Porcello and Jason Heyward currently contributing to contenders. Bailey recalled a "bunch" of matchups against current Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle.
Now, Bailey shares a clubhouse with perhaps the most notable big leaguer from the state -- two-time American League MVP Michael Trout.
"He's a two-time MVP, and it's a privilege to play with him for sure as a New Jersey guy," Bailey said. "It's awesome. Hopefully it's putting New Jersey on the map."
Fabian Ardaya is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.