I was recently contributing photos to Tourism Surrey’s Flickr Group and selected several of the images I took while on a photowalk in Whalley with my sister and my nephews. The boys were in Little League and so we had walked around the ballparks and then over to the recreation centre.
Captured in many of the images and almost everywhere I looked, there was the name Chuck Bailey. There’s the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre, the Chuck Bailey Skatepark and Youth Centre, and a dedication to Chuck Bailey at Whalley Athletic Park.
I started a Surrey File profile about five years ago and it’s hardly used so I thought Chuck would be a good reason to bring the series back:
Bailey spent most of his adult life involved in Little League Baseball, teaming up with Orest Springenatic to build a Whalley program that is famous as one of this country’s perennial powerhouses. Bailey and Springenatic coached two Whalley teams to the fabled Little League World Series and freely passed that knowledge on to other organizations in the area in an effort to build the game in British Columbia.
“The thing was, Chuck and Orest didn’t just develop some system in Whalley and keep it hidden,” recalled Little League Canada president Roy Bergerman, who served as president of Kennedy Surrey Little League when Bailey was the District 3 co-ordinator for the game.
“They took it out to other leagues and told people, ‘This is how you have to do it.’ Chuck was not shy about sharing his knowledge across the province. His attitude was to build up all of the leagues to be as strong as they possibly could because competition makes everybody better.” [Surrey Now]
Chuck Bailey passed away in 2008 after suffering with leukemia for more than a decade. He changed the little league program in Whalley, putting the Surrey neighbourhood on the map in the baseball world.
Originally from Saskatchewan, Bailey moved to Surrey in the early 1960s and spent 11 years coaching Surrey East Little League before that organization dissolved in 1973.
Knowing of Bailey’s abilities from playing against him over the years, Whalley coach Springenatic invited his rival to cross the street and work with him. Together the two men would become known as the “grandfathers of baseball” in the Lower Mainland.
In addition to his time spent as a coach, Bailey also served in administrative capacities, including long stretches of time as Whalley Little League president, District 3 co-ordinator and B.C. Little League president. Even as he was battling the effects of leukemia, Bailey spent as many as 15 hours each day in the summer months at the ballpark.
“I love the game,” Bailey said in a 2003 interview with the Now. “It’s nice to see the smiles on the kids faces. And when you see their tears you feel like crying too because they try so hard. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing these young children play baseball and have fun. It makes all the years you spend at this worthwhile.” [Surrey Now]
By 2005, the Whalley baseball teams had won 153 titles in four age categories, including 59 district pennants, 60 provincial championships, and 34 national crowns. Whalley Little League has also represented Canada at the Little League World Series in Williamsport in 1973, 1978, 1997, and 2005.
Should you have a suggestion for another Surrey File profile – of a person who has made a significant contribution to the community over the years – please feel free to leave a comment.