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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bailey Liddle Steps Into Justin's World

Sisters playing ball together, even at the Division 1 level, is far from uncommon, but it's still a special time for the young ladies who get to play with their sibling at the highest level of the game.

Photo cred: Virginia Tech Athletics

Former Virginia Tech Hokies Courtney & Bailey Liddle shared that opportunity, suiting up together in Blacksburg for two seasons; the final two years of Courtney's career as a Hokie were the first two of Bailey's.

A dual-threat player, taking the circle and playing the field, in her first two seasons and the Hokies' first baseman for the final two years of her career, Liddle played all over the diamond and recorded a career stat line of .248/.366/.357. Never a huge power threat, though able to come through when needed, she registered seven home runs over her four-year career.

Many outside of Blacksburg may know the Liddle name thanks to 'Momma Liddle', the moniker affectionately dubbed upon Bailey & Courtney's mother Susan, who made national headlines in the sport through her heroic fight against breast cancer and became one of many faces of the sport's annual "pink out" and fundraising initiatives. Tragically, Susan succumbed to the cancer and passed away in October of 2013.

Continue reading as Bailey dishes on her career; dealing with and continuing to play after the loss of her mom; and more.

Justin’s World: How did you get your start playing softball?
Bailey Liddle: I got my start playing softball when I was about 6 years old. My sister had started playing in the little league in my hometown and once I saw her play, I knew I had to try it too. After that, I fell in love and our family dove right in. So when I was 8 and Courtney was 10, we started playing travel softball with the Ashburn Shooting Stars.

Justin’s World: Why Virginia Tech? What played into you wanting to stay close-to-home for your college years?
Bailey Liddle: I visited a number of other schools before choosing Virginia Tech. The three final schools I ended up considering were Cornell, the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech. I really liked Cornell, obviously for the education, but also because their softball program always finished at the top of the Ivy League. I liked UVA because of the education and because it was in the ACC. But I loved Virginia Tech for everything it had to offer. It had a family-type environment, a great football program, great academics, and an amazing softball family -- all of which I was looking for. VT is also relatively close to my hometown, which is about 3.5 hours northeast of Blacksburg. When I found out my junior year of high school that my mom was sick with stage four breast cancer, I knew I wanted to stay close to home, and Virginia Tech fit all of my requirements.

Justin’s World: Tell me about getting to play with your sister as fellow Hokies for the first half of your collegiate career.
Bailey Liddle: Getting to play with Courtney my freshman and sophomore year was incredible. Court and I have always had a really good relationship, so we never really butt heads too much, as some people would expect with siblings being on the same team. She’s honestly my best friend, so just getting to play D1 softball with your best friend and sibling was pretty neat. She was a constant source of encouragement and support, especially when it came to our mom’s illness. We would both head down to the field together to escape and, whether we took a nice, long round of bp together, or we threw long toss in the outfield, it would definitely help to take our minds off of things. We were also able to help each other a lot when it came to offense. Growing up, our dad and two coaches along the way taught us most of what we know about our swings and hitting. We’d always hit together, so Court knew exactly what I was doing wrong when I’d start to have problems at the plate. Between being emotionally supportive and helping me with the mechanics of the game, it was awesome to have been able to play with her.

Justin’s World: Your mother and her fight against cancer inspired countless individuals, both at Tech and in the softball and sports community as a whole. Tell me what that support meant to you and the rest of your family.
Bailey Liddle: Hokie Nation really rose up around our family while my mom was battling her illness. A bunch of the athletes at Virginia Tech all came together to help my sister and I make a support video to give her for Christmas of 2013, and it raised her spirits SO incredibly much. Seeing an entire community of student-athletes stop what they’re doing (which was studying for finals at the time) to make a video for my mom and to support my sister and me was really overwhelming. That wasn’t even where the support stopped. The women’s soccer team dedicated a breast cancer awareness game to my mom and made a huge banner for her. The softball team ordered special jerseys for our breast cancer game a couple of weeks before my mom passed away with “A Liddle Bit Stronger” on the back, as well as ordering bracelets that said “Fight to the Finish” with her name on them.  I didn’t know I could fall more in love with Virginia Tech and the community, but I definitely could, and I did.

Justin’s World: Following your mom’s passing, tell me what kept you going and what you leaned on for strength and inspiration in a time as trying as that.
Bailey Liddle: What kept me going after my mom’s passing was honestly just the incredible and selfless people I was surrounded by. Five days after my mom passed away, we held a memorial for her in our hometown and Coach Al Brauns and my teammates found a way to get a bus to drive them all the way to northern Virginia so they could be there to support me and my family. The memorial took place on a Sunday afternoon, and after the event they drove right back so they’d make it for workouts early the next morning. President Charles Steger also came to the memorial to offer his condolences to our family, and we received an outpouring of support from most of the teams on campus as well as the great Jim Weaver. In addition to the support from all of our family and friends, it was also reassuring to know that my mom no longer had to deal with the immeasurable pain of fighting such a terrible disease.

Justin’s World: What is your favorite moment or memory from your playing career?
Bailey Liddle: If I had to pick a specific moment in my career, my favorite memory would have to be my first career home run at UVA. I was a sophomore, and the game was televised on ESPN, so my friends who weren’t there as well as my extended family were able to see it. My parents were in the stands, and my sister was a senior on the team. As I was rounding the bases I could hear my sister yelling for me and I could hear my mom going absolutely nuts in the stands (she was always the loudest). It’s always awesome to do something well against the in-state rival, but it was especially awesome since I was able to share that moment with not only my teammates, but my family as well.

Justin’s World: Who was the toughest opponent you faced, at any level, either an individual or team?
Bailey Liddle: I definitely faced some tough opponents while playing D1 softball. Facing teams like Tennessee, Florida State, Michigan, UCLA, etc. from both a pitching and offensive standpoint was really challenging. But when it comes down to it, my toughest opponent was always myself. I know it sounds ridiculously cliché, but the days where I was able to completely shut my mind off and just have fun and play the game I love were the days where I was the most successful, even against the toughest of opponents.

Justin’s World: Tell me about your future plans, both involved with softball and otherwise.
Bailey Liddle: My future plans right now include getting a full time job! This summer has been  really hectic between graduating, moving to a new city, getting married, and being the matron of honor for my sister’s wedding, so I’m looking forward to settling down, getting a job, and getting back into an everyday routine. But looking a little further into the future, I can definitely see myself getting involved with softball again. I already miss it more than I ever imagined I could. I’ve been thinking about giving lessons in the Charlotte area as well as looking into coaching for a travel or high school team, so I guess we’ll have to see what happens!

Justin’s World: Let’s end with my favorite question: Say you were stranded on a deserted island for an undetermined period of time, but could take three things with you. No boats, no phones. What would you take?
Bailey Liddle: I’m assuming there’s no electricity on the island for my widescreen TV so I can watch ESPN and HGTV…… so I’m going to bring my husband and my cat, Dexter, for some good company, as well as a lifetime supply of Chipotle steak burrito bowls covered with ALL of the toppings. If that’s not an option, I’d take the world’s biggest bag of Smartfood white cheddar popcorn.

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