Friday, January 9, 2015

Bailey Wigness Steps Into Justin's World

If you're an Arizona State softball fan or a PAC-12 supporter, it's likely you'll recognize the name Bailey Wigness. An incredibly consistent hitter over her four-year career that spanned from 2011-2014, she was even brighter in the classroom  than she was on the softball field.

Photo cred: ASUNews
A three-time Academic All-American, Bailey was the recipient of the NCAA Elite 89 Award in 2013, honoring her as the very top academic achiever in the entirety of the sport of softball.

Wigness posted a .393 batting average in more than two hundred games over her career, and a slugging percentage just eighteen points higher. With only seven of her 141 career hits going for extra bases, she was the very definition of a "table setter".

Now a coach at Arizona Christian University, a Christian-based NAIA school in Phoenix, Wigness has already begun her post-playing career. See more below, as she dishes on her career hopes & plans and more!

You can connect with Bailey on Twitter by following her @BaileyWigness.

Justin’s World: How did you get started playing the game of softball?
Bailey Wigness: I had always played tee ball and coach pitch growing up, but when I was eight, my older sister started playing fastpitch. I idolized my sister growing up and I wanted to be just like her, so that’s how I got into softball.

Justin’s World: After a slow start to your career w/ the Devils, you really began to light it up in your sophomore year. What clicked between those two seasons that took you from reserve to star starter?
Wigness: Coming in as a freshman, there were a lot of things that the coaching staff wanted me to change in terms of how I played. They broke down every aspect of my game, my swing, my fielding, even the way that I threw. I basically had to start over and there were points my freshman year where it was extremely frustrating and I just lost all confidence in myself. But I really trusted Coach Myers and what his plan was for me. Between my freshman and sophomore year I was working out every day; I got a lot stronger. And then my sophomore year, I just worked at it. I came early and stayed late every day and things just started to click for me physically. And when that happened, my confidence just started to grow. I really started to trust the process and plan that Coach had for me and I started to trust myself and my abilities.

Justin’s World: Your academic success is equally as impressive as your athletic prowess; as a D1 athlete, how did you find that "happy medium" balance between athletics and your studies?
Wigness: It’s all about being able to compartmentalize and being able to put 100 percent effort and focus into whatever it is you’re doing. When I was at the field, I was completely focused on softball and didn’t let the distractions and stresses of school creep in while I was there. When I was studying, I was completely focused on that. Whatever I was doing, I wanted to give my best effort and be the best at it, no matter how small the assignment in school or how simple a drill was. That was huge for the success I had on and off the field.

Justin’s World: You played three different sports in high school, including softball. What factors played into you choosing softball as the sport you would follow into college?
Wigness: It honestly was a tough choice to make. I loved playing volleyball, but softball was my first love. I had the opportunity to stay close to home and be a Sun Devil and I could never turn down that opportunity. And I think that in life, you have to go find the one thing that lights a fire in you and just go do it and do it to the best of your ability. For me, that one thing is softball.

Justin’s World: If you could go back in time and relive (or redo) a single play or moment from your career, when would you go back to?
Wigness: I would definitely go back to 2011 when we won a national championship. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. It was a special moment and a special experience. It was full of so many different emotions that some parts of it are a blur. I would go back and relive that over and over again if I could.

Justin’s World: I often ask a player to describe the Women's College World Series experience, but you have the distinction of having been on a championship-winning squad. Talk about that 2011 team and the run to the rings.
Wigness: 2011 was a blast. That team was just so unselfish and we were so close. Everyone had a role and a job to do and nobody’s role was looked at as more or less important than the next player’s. Not by the coaches, not by each other. Collectively, we had all the right pieces for a championship and there was never a doubt in any of our minds that we were going to win. It was a special experience. I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City; not very many people get the opportunity to do that. There’s no place like it. And winning and running out onto the field and celebrating with my teammates is certainly something I’ll take with me for the rest of my life. I’ll never forget that whole year, everything that I went through-it was all worth it. It was special.

Justin’s World: Right in the middle of your career, between your junior and senior seasons, Coach Myers left to go to Auburn and Craig Nicholson took over. Talk about that transition and the similarities and differences between the two coaches.
Wigness: It was hard to see Coach Myers leave; definitely the toughest thing I had to go through at ASU. Especially as a senior. He had such a profound influence on my life, I would not be the player or the person that I am today if it weren’t for Coach Myers. He is without a doubt the best coach in college softball and I feel very fortunate that I had the opportunity to play for him for 3 years. What he did for Arizona State’s softball program and the legacy he left can never be erased. We were family and we always will be, but it was hard to see him go. It was a rough transition and obviously the end of last year wasn’t how things were supposed to end. But it was a learning experience. Things happen and that’s just part of life; you learn from it and move on. And the bond I have with my teammates is much stronger because of it.

Justin’s World: Who would you say is your hero and how has that person's influence affected you when it comes to softball?
Wigness: I would say my hero is definitely my dad. He shows me every day what it means to work hard and he always encourages me to go after what I want and follow my dreams. And he always believed in me. There were a lot of people who didn’t think I could make it at Arizona State, but my dad never doubted me. Sometimes all you need is someone that believes in you. Even now that I’m done playing, there are a lot of people that don’t necessarily agree with me going into coaching, but my dad is the first person to tell me to keep pursuing my dreams. I’m very thankful for him and I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for my dad.

Justin’s World: Now that your playing career is over, what are your plans for the future, both with softball and life in general?
Wigness: I’ve been coaching at Arizona Christian University in Phoenix and also working with two travel ball teams in the Phoenix area. I absolutely love what I do. I plan to keep coaching until there’s ever a day when I don’t love it anymore, and then I’ll go find something else that I do love. I’d love to coach at the D1 level so I’m just going to continue to work and gain experience in any way that I can. I understand it’s not going to happen overnight but eventually that’s where I want to be. My ultimate goal is to get back to Oklahoma City and win a championship as a coach.

Justin’s World: Let's say you were stranded on a deserted island, but could take three things with you. Boats and phones are off-limits. What would you take?
Wigness: I would take chap stick, a knife, and a blanket.

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