“I first started at a gun club in Taylor when I was with the Tigers,” Bailey said last week. “Our batting practice pitcher used to be a training officer for the state police, and I asked him if there were any ranges nearby and he let me know about the range in Taylor. So I had my folks bring me over a re-loader and a shotgun.
“We always had some time to burn during the day, because we didn’t have to be at the ballpark until 5 for night games,” Bailey added. “I always enjoyed it because it’s an activity you can do by yourself. But a lot of it, especially after I was done with baseball, it was a sport that still scratched that competitive itch.”
Skeet shooting involves firing a shotgun at clay disks flung into the air at high speeds from a variety of angles. Currently a regular member at the North Ottawa Rod and Gun Club in Grand Haven Township, Bailey shot his first registered targets in 1985 and steadidly improved his skills.
His most impressive feat was winning twice at the 1990 National Skeet Shooting Association World Championships in Savanna, Ga., in the .410 bore and 20-guage events. He’s also won 11 state championship titles and has been a member of 15 all-state teams — including the 2011 squad.
Bailey’s most recent victory at the state championship shoot came in 2010, when he was crowned a doubles champion.
Being involved in skeet shooting also helped Bailey meet his wife, Tammy. They met at a skeet shoot and were engaged at the Detroit Sportman’s Congress in 1987.
Bailey, who has owned a small packaging supplies company for the past 1 1/2 years, actually met the requirements to be inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, but didn’t accept the honor until Year 2.
“It’s a humbling experience,” he said. “Especially considering all of the terrific shooters around the state. I’ve been fortunate to enjoy some longetivity with it.”
Bailey was inducted into the Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 for his professinal baseball career. He was a star in the sport at Grand Haven High School from 1973-75 and pitched collegiately at Muskegon Community College, then at Grand Valley State. The Lakers were coached by former Major League pitcher Phil Regan, who was intrumental in developing Bailey as a top prospect.
Bailey signed with the Tigers in 1978 and worked his way through the minor leagues to the Majors in 1981 — manager Sparky Anderson’s first year with the club.
He appeared in 50 games over the next three seasons, but a chronic sore arm prevented him from joining the Tigers’ World Series championship team in 1984 and ended his career altogether before the 1985 season.