New challenge for Luke Bailey

Published 4:26 pm Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Daily News

For nearly a decade he chased the dream.

Former Troup Tiger Luke Bailey was a fourth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009, and from then until 2016 he gave it everything he had in his quest to reach the big leagues.

After playing for the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks in 2016, Bailey realized he was done.

With two young children and a wife living in Troup County, Bailey knew it was time to turn the page, to take his life in a different direction.

Bailey has found his new calling.

Bailey, who has been giving private hitting and catching lessons for the past few years, is going to be working full-time at Game On Training in LaGrange.

Bailey will oversee the 13-year-old to 18-year-old age groups for Game On Baseball.

He’ll be a teacher, and he’ll also be putting the teams together, and helping set the schedules for the different seasons along with Danny Stanford, who is based in Columbus.

Basically, if there’s anything to do with those age groups, Bailey will be in charge of it.

Bailey will be working closely with Donnie Branch, who is the director of operations at LaGrange’s Game On facility.

Branch, who will be returning for his second stint as LaGrange High’s head coach next spring, will be working with the younger age groups at Game On.

“Right there when I saw it was about to end, this is what I wanted to direct everything toward,” Bailey said. “With coach Branch, I just got lucky to come over here. Everything just worked perfect. Having him here to always go to for advice is nice.”

Branch, who has been with Game On since 2015, said Bailey works well with young people.

“He’s really good with the kids, which is a draw,” Branch said. “You’ve got to get them in there, but the kids have to be comfortable, and trust you, and respect you. And they really need to like you.”

Branch added that Bailey is “the one that’s going to make it go. The first line, is him. If they don’t feel good about him, they may come, but they won’t be back.”

Bailey was one of the country’s top catchers when he was in high school while playing for coach Craig Garner, although his time as a baseball player at Troup ended in disappointing fashion when he suffered an injury as a senior.

Bailey underwent Tommy John surgery on his shoulder in May of 2009, but he was still taken by the Rays in the fourth round of that year’s draft, a testament to how highly-regarded he was.

Bailey started playing professionally in 2010 after recovering from his surgery, and he was with various teams in the Rays’ organization through 2014.

When his time with the Rays ended Bailey played for two independent-league teams in 2015 and 2016.

His best year came in 2015 when he hit 26 home runs and drove in 74 runs while playing for two teams.

At the age of 25, Bailey played 63 games in 2016 for Fargo-Moorhead, and that was it.

While there were plenty of highlights during his playing days, Bailey dealt with his share of adversity as well, and he’s hopeful that will make him a more effective coach.

“After high school, I had a lot of injuries, and coming out of slumps, and all that,” Bailey said. “And I got the yips one year. It was my first time in high A, in 2012. I couldn’t throw it anywhere. I couldn’t throw it to the pitcher. I couldn’t throw it anywhere. I didn’t know where it was going. Dealing with that, it helps a lot with teaching. You can relate (to the players’ struggles).”

Bailey does realize that playing and teaching are vastly different, and he’s willing to reach out for help.

“I’m always talking to (Branch), and coach Garner, and just people who have done this,” Bailey said. “How good I was is irrelevant to teaching. That has nothing to do with how good of a coach I am, or will be.”

When it comes to teaching hitting, Bailey said “there’s a structure, and I stick to a base, but Josh Donaldson and Joe Mauer don’t have nearly the same swing, and they’re all-stars. So there’s a lot of ways to do it.”

Branch’s hope is that Bailey will help the players become top-notch high-school athletes, and perhaps land a spot on a college roster down the road.

“The purpose is to get them better for their high-school coach, communicate with their high-school coach, and then get them maximum exposure that will help the recruiting process,” Bailey said. “That’s huge.”


Tryouts for the fall season will be held on Aug. 4 at LaGrange High for the 13-and-under up to the 18-and-under age groups.

For a tryout schedule, go to the Game On Training LaGrange Facebook page.

For information on the tryouts, call Luke Bailey at (706) 412-8404 or Danny Stanford at (706) 580-7185, or email