Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Bailey Stenson Steps Into Justin's World

Today I have the honor of featuring one of the best hitters (AND outfielders!) to put on a Washington Huskies softball uniform. And as great as she was on-the-field, her off-field profile was even greater as her "Breaking it Down with Bailey" video series gathered hundreds of online viewers & a rabid following in Seattle. I write, of course, about the one & only Bailey Stenson.

Now an uber-talented photographer, Bailey is still making her mark out on the West coast, but now with a camera in her hands along with a softball bat. You can check out her photography at her Photos by Bailey website here (also linked below).

One of the best players, but also one of the nicest people to come out of the Huskies' program, Bailey is still a fan-favorite and is a great "follow" on social networks. If you haven't already connected with her, I encourage you to do so on Facebook and Twitter (@missbailey20)

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing softball? 
Bailey Stenson: When I was 9 years old, my dad told me if I would like to play softball, he would coach my little league team. I must have said yes because he went out, bought all the coaching books, and then tried to teach me how to pitch (I couldn't do the wind mill motion so I would just toss it underhand as hard as my little arm would let me). Sometimes I would pitch to him in the front yard, sometimes I would pitch to my grandma (who is amazing haha; she still has bruises on her shins from all the balls I threw into the ground). Even at 10  years old, I would go outside by myself when I didn't have a catcher and practice pitching against the brick wall in front of our house. It was the perfect strike zone height but the bad thing was when I missed, the ball would roll up onto our front  yard and hit the house....everyday, after about the 15th pitch hitting the house or front door (there are still dents) my mom would come out and be so mad and I eventually took pitching lessons, believe it or not. Despite my hard work at trying to become Jennie Finch, I ended up moving on to become a catcher for most of my career until I was about 17 (eventually moving to middle infield for high school and outfield to finish my career in college)! I did pitch one game in middle school (I hit like 4 girls in a row so I was pulled and put back behind the plate) and then I started a game in High School because our pitcher got sick. I refuse to even pitch to the girls I give lessons to for fear that I will hit one of them. Talk about mental block!

The experience of going to the Women’s College World Series is, without a doubt, the greatest in the sport of softball. I’d love to get your thoughts on the atmosphere in OK City, and some of your favorite memories from the WCWS.
The WCWS was such a cool thing for us because College Softball is basically the best of the best with our sport.  At the time, it had been decided 2008 would be the last Olympic softball teams, and the pro teams at the time were not as big as they are now (they still aren't even that big which is so sad to me. There are some amazing women athletes out there who are not recognized after college because there isn't the funding...but don't get me started on that!). I am so fortunate to have been on a team that went to the World Series three out of my four years [and] with a National Championship. The coolest part about the fact that I was on a team like UW is that when I was a freshman in high school, not knowing much about the opportunity to play college softball let alone thinking I was good enough to go to the next level, my high school coaches came home from going to the World Series and told me "You can play with those girls. You're good enough to play at the World Series" and lo and behold I was able to go experience the wonderful WCWS. They make everything so cool for us and ESPN has really helped by televising almost all of every game in the playoffs. We have come a long way in the softball world and I hope it continues to push forward. People in Seattle tell me all the time how their view of softball changed when they watched us win the National Championship in 2009. It's still awesome to hear people say they were glued to their TVs and haven't missed a softball game since :)

JW: I’m very curious to know how your “Breakin’ it Down with Bailey” interview series got started.
Breakin it down with Bailey was my heart and soul for a few years there, wasn't it? :) It all started with Rosie, our SID (sports information director) approaching me and asking if I would write a blog from the players point of view for the website Of course I said yes, not knowing what the heck I was doing (because I like to jump in head first like that) and it became sort of an outlet for me to help people get connected with our team, while keeping a lot of it on the inner circle at the same time. The name was inspired by a women's soccer player’s blog called "Kickin it with Kendyl" and I thought that would be kind of fun if all the athletes started writing blogs with alliteration like that so I was like "I like dancing, and dancing is breaking it down, and I will be breaking down the weekends, so how about Breakin' it Down with Bailey" and it stuck. After a few blog posts, it became a video segment where I would interview our own athletes and other athletes or coaches on campus. There came a time where football players like Roy Lewis and Jermaine Kearse were like "when do we get to Break it down?!" I totally need to call ‘em up and get that done :) The best part was after winning the World Series, I read the blog posts and realized we had known we were gonna win it all from day one and I wrote about it, so in 2011 I decided to publish all the blogs for my teammates and their families to have mostly, but a lot of softball players have bought the book and have told me how much they love it. It's awesome to be able to be such an inspiration and to give an inside look into what it's like to be a husky. I am not kidding when I say every few months someone will recognize me and say "hey, aren't you Breakin’ it down with Bailey" and they will tell me their experience with it. It's pretty hilarious and I turn bright red, but it happens nonetheless. Maybe one day I will do a reunion interview with people! Oh, and I forgot, I guess I can include a link to the website to read the blogs or a link to Amazon to see the book!

JW: Who was/is your favorite interviewee in the series?
Oh my gosh, I honestly can't pick just one!! Morgan Stuart was the worst interviewer, along with Lauren Greer, haha. I made fun of them for their responses a few times (all in good fun of course! I love those girls). I loved when Felecia Harris did the worm, I interviewed Amanda Fleischman in the ice tub. Jake Locker and Paul Homer's are pretty hilarious to me, along with the fact that I got Coach Sark to bark on camera (and then our local news station took the clip and played it on air). Danielle Lawrie was interviewed by me with a shoe polish stick for a microphone and that interview cracks me up every time. Basically, I loved getting to chat with the girls and have it be very down to earth and real and just have a good time sharing our hilariousness with the internet world :) A few times I have gone back and watched them (mostly when people tell me they have watched them; it makes me want to make sure I was semi-appropriate) and literally laugh hysterically to myself. What can I say, I have no shame thinking they are funny! 

JW: Did you consider continuing your softball career past your collegiate days at UW?
I considered playing internationally but the further out that I have gotten, the harder it was to actually make it a reality. I wish I had just gone for it right out of college and I wouldn't have slowly acquired so much responsibility. Being a grown-up sucks. I just wanna play softball and hang out teaching little kids the love of the game all day if I could! I miss the game almost every single day, so I have a plan in mind for my future that involves softball and work out programs for softballers. It hasn't taken shape yet but I have been working on the business model! I just love sports and softball is obviously the best so why not find a way to get to do it all the time.

JW: What are you up to now? I know you run a very successful photography business, (among many other things, I am sure!)
BS: Right now, I work for a commercial fishing company in Seattle as my main job and basically my main source of income. I am very lucky to be able to have a job, but I decided one job isn't enough so why not have a photography business on the side (which is also basically a full time job). I am so proud of how far my business has come and how much I have grown over the last two years. It's something I just randomly picked up one day and realized "Hey, people like my pictures; they want to pay me for them. I don't want to get in trouble from the government, so I might as well start a business" and here I am, just trying to keep my head above water (because like everything I do, I jumped headfirst), but loving every minute of it. It's cool to see the change throughout my time as a photographer. While I have always loved taking pictures, I never knew the art behind photography and that is what I am having the most fun learning and incorporating! I suppose you can check out my stuff on my website :) Luckily, I still give hitting lessons and work with little slap hitters (even righties sometimes!) to help them grow mentally and physically within the game!

JW: Coming off a World Series appearance last season, how would you predict the Huskies to fare this season? Do you think a repeat in Oklahoma City is a reasonable expectation for them?
I think they should expect to be at the World Series every single year and I know that they do believe that. I think what is going to get them to win the whole thing again, besides talent obviously, is the will to buy into Coach Tarr and her philosophy, buy into your teammates and support one another, and to be selfless in your desire to win. The year we won was an amazing rollercoaster of ups and downs and I can honestly say that the selflessness and will to support teammates 100%, whether you are on the field or not, is going to make all the difference. If there is tension and doubt amongst the team, it makes it harder to win. Teams still do it, but that's not how Washington works. We are a team of individuals who become family. Not saying we loved each other 100% of the time, but we loved each other when it mattered the most and it made it all that much sweeter to celebrate the victory with each other.

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