Class of 2013
As a softball player growing up in an athletic family with strong ties to the Limestone County community, Kathy Coggins Bailey knew where she wanted to spend her entire softball career. Her organized softball career began as a five-year old in the Athens City youth league and ended nearly 20 years later as a shortstop on the first two Athens State fast- pitch softball teams. In between, every team the 2013 LCSHOF inductee played on would call Limestone County home.
“Athens was my home and I took pride in representing the community. When given a choice, I always stayed close to home to play. Limestone County holds a special place in my heart and I was blessed to be able spend my entire softball career here,” said Bailey.
The daughter of long time Athens High School coach Bobby Coggins, Bailey spend her youth playing just about every sport out in the backyard with her older brother Keith and cousins Pierre and Jaime Coggins. “We played them all,” said Bailey. “Football, basketball and baseball. You name it, we played it. I really enjoyed playing softball as a child. I wanted to play all the time and when we would get rained out, I was so heartbroken.”
Bailey was coached in the youth leagues by her mother Ann and current Wallace State Community College softball coach Jane Clem. She would move on to Athens High School where she was an All-Area selection for the Golden Eagles softball team.
She graduated from AHS in 1988 and accepted a softball scholarship to Calhoun Community College to play for Coach Myra King. The Lady Warhawks were a national slow-pitch softball power under the direction of King and Bailey moved right into the starting lineup as the lead-off hitter and second baseman. “Kathy is without a doubt, the best second baseman I have ever seen,” said King, a 2004 LCSHOF inductee. “She was a tremendous lead-off hitter with great speed who was difficult to get out. Kathy was just a tremendous player and someone who I am honored to say I coached.”
Bailey set numerous records during her two years in the Lady Warhawks program including most hits in a game (5 against Lurleen B. Wallace), most hits in a season (89 in 1990) and most career hits (157). She was named AJCC/ NJCC Region XXII Most Valuable player twice and helped Calhoun finish second in the NJCAA National Slow Pitch Tournament in 1989 and 1990.
It was during her sophomore year that Bailey thought her days playing softball in Limestone County might be coming to an end. If she were to play softball the last two years of college, it was going to have to be of the fast-pitch variety and in a different county.
“I was really hoping Athens State would start a program and they did,” said Bailey. “Coach (Larry) Keenum contacted me about being part of the first fast-pitch team at Athens State during the spring of my sophomore year at Calhoun. Even though I knew I was going to have to transition back to fast-pitch, I was looking forward to the challenge and signed with Athens State. Another exciting thing for me was Coach Keenum signed a lot of my Calhoun teammates and having them around helped make the transition to a new program easier.”
Keenum knew he had a special player in Bailey. “Kathy was one of the first elite players we had,” said Keenum. “She was the consummate leadoff hitter for fast-pitch softball. She had great speed and was a true left handed hitter that could bunt, slap or hit. Kathy was fundamentally sound and did things that we had to teach others. She is proof of the old adage of you can’t teach talent. Kathy is a great young lady who never missed class and has grown up and did well. I am very proud of Kathy.”
While she experienced a few setbacks in moving back to playing fast-pitch, the transition wasn’t long for Bailey to start making the opposing teams take notice of the Lady Bears shortstop and leadoff hitter. “I really experienced an adrenalin rush playing fast-pitch. I enjoyed the challenge of facing a pitcher throwing 60 mph and trying to steal bases. I remember facing Deb Sonnenberg who pitched at Huntingdon College and in the 1996 Olympics for the Canada National Team. She was a great challenge for us but we beat her couple of times,” said Bailey.
Bailey holds the Athens State record for most assists in a season (135) and career (260). She would bat .366 during her two year career with Athens State, a figure that would rank ninth all-time in school history. An absolute terror on the base paths, Bailey would steal 79 bases in 81 attempts. She was twice named All-District and Honorable Mention All-American.
One of Bailey’s teammates at Calhoun and Athens State was Pam Chambliss who says that Bailey was a great competitor. “Kathy was serious about everything when it came to softball. Practice, games, off-season drills or anything else with softball, Kathy gave her all. She was a great athlete who loved the sport,” said Chambliss.
Bailey says that being inducted into this year’s Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame class is something she never dreamed off. “My first reaction to being chosen was that I cried. This is my biggest honor and it is something that is very special to me. I am being inducted into a hall of fame that includes my great uncle (Cliff Coggin) and others who had great careers. To be included in this year’s class with Mary Jane (Hobbs) who was a teammate of mine at Calhoun and Athens State is special as well. I am so thankful for the wonderful coaches and teammates I had over the years that pushed me to do my best. They helped make this wonderful honor possible,” added Bailey