Nobody envisioned that when Bailey Gleaves left Post Falls it would be on a transcontinental, 2,500-mile trek.
Until an email landed in her inbox just after midnight on Sept. 1, 2017, the shortstop known as “Bubba” by friends and family hadn’t considered it.
“Ever since I was 6 years old, my goal was always to get to Stanford,” Gleaves said.
But Gleaves woke up on that autumn Friday – the first day that the NCAA allowed coaches to contact softball recruits – to discover an email from Columbia University expressing interest in the then-junior, and something changed.
Gleaves, who was a first-team All-Inland Empire League selection last season and carries a 4.4 grade-point average, has since committed to playing for the prestigious Ivy League school. But first, she hopes to lead the Trojans to a second consecutive berth in the Idaho 5A State tournament, where Post Falls placed fifth in 2018.
The Trojans graduated eight seniors, including four starters – three of whom were first-team All-IEL selections – from that squad that made its first appearance in the state tourney since 2010.
Gleaves, as a result, has assumed a bigger leadership role this season, after being named one of the team captains last season.
“I think it’s important to get to know all of our teammates and, kind of, become a family,” she said. “I think everyone plays better when you really get to know someone and everyone is communicating.”
While that may sound cliché, for Gleaves, at least, it is a family affair. Her dad, Holly Gleaves, is the second-year head coach of the Trojans.
“I agree with that,” Holly Gleaves said of creating a family environment. “That’s huge. Like any team sport, we’re only going to be as good as we are combined. For the captains, for the leaders, to be able to have those individual relationships and be able to pull everyone together, that is the only way we’re going to be able to achieve what we should be able to and, hopefully, more.”
Post Falls is starting five underclassmen this season, but expectations within the dugout are still high, even in an extremely competitive IEL.
Sophomore Kaycie Barber, a returning starter, is hitting .688 with three doubles, two triples, six runs batted in and nine runs scored during the Trojans’ 4-0 start. Freshman McKenna Moak is batting .615 with a double, two triples and a home run and has a 2.63 ERA with 10 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings.
“We think we’ve made improvements over last year,” the elder Gleaves said. “We were able to do things before the season started that we couldn’t do last year as a team. Top to bottom, we are better.”
Bubba Gleaves certainly hit the ground running this season, hitting .714 with 11 RBIs, 10 runs and five stolen bases.
“She’s pretty smart at the plate and she understands what a good at-bat is,” Holly Gleaves said. “She’s pretty good with her pitch selections and she can hit for average, but she can also hit for power. She has some stolen bases, but it’s not so much because of blazing speed. It’s more smarts – savvy on the basepaths.”
Those smarts and that savvy have a chance to carry Post Falls to another postseason run and will guide Bubba Gleaves on her next adventure in Manhattan, where she’ll take on the challenges of Division I athletics and pursuing an Ivy League education.
She ultimately intends to become an attorney. While undecided on a major, she plans to explore business classes to eventually open her own law firm.
“It’s scary and it’s definitely way different,” she said of her pending move. “I never would have thought, growing up in Post Falls, that I’d be interested in a big city like New York, but I just loved it. I just liked the vibe of the city.”
The upcoming transition is unexpected and scary for Bubba’s mom, Terry Starkey, and dad, too.
“We are extremely proud of what she has accomplished, both on the field and in the classroom,” Holly Gleaves said. “That part is really cool.
“Selfishly, I always thought, going through the recruiting process that she’d be somewhere on the West Coast. I think we’re probably more nervous than she is.”
Bubba Gleaves has a quiet confidence, an obvious humility and radiates an inner strength that all have manifested in an a powerful independence. Those traits help her mask any anxiety she may have about her future.
“I’m just going all-in,” she said. “I know it’s a really great school and I’ll have tons of opportunities afterward, so I couldn’t pass up this offer.”
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