Memories abound as Bailey enters Hall of Fame

INDIANAPOLIS — Ask any sports fan living in the state of Indiana in 1990 what they remember about Damon Bailey and Bedford North Lawrence winning the state championship, and you’ll get a wide variety of answers.

Former IHSAA Bob Gardner is no exception, but during Saturday’s news conference for the NFHS National High School Hall of Fame inductions, Gardner shared a memory of Bailey from nearly a year later.

Both Bailey and Gardner will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Sunday, along with notables such as Dusty Baker, Seimone Augustus and Derrick Brooks, among others.

Discussion of Bailey predictably centered on the 41,000 who attended the state finals at the RCA Dome, but Gardner recalled the benefits Seymour reaped from hosting both the sectional and regional for all four years of Bailey’s career.

“After Damon graduated, I went down to see a game at Seymour (High School), which seated 8,300 and was sold out for every one of those games Damon played,” Gardner said. “Their athletic director, Walt Wintin, said, ‘Come out back and let me show you what Damon bought me.’

“I said, ‘What Damon bought you?’ and followed him outside.”

When Gardner turned the corner, he was greeted by the sight of a shiny, new Greyhound bus, the product of four years of concession money from games Bailey played there.

The story garnered a hearty laugh from all in attendance, including Bailey, but the real focus of the day was what the inductees treasured the most about their involvement in high school sports rather than the treasure their involvement produced.

It was a question each of the 11 inductees in attendance, or their representative, was asked to answer. Brooks was the only one not in attendance due to a schedule conflict but is scheduled to attend today’s induction ceremony.

“A lot of us up here have gone on and made a lot of money, some more than others,” Bailey said as he patted the arm of Baker next to him, drawing laughter. “But we have gone on and made a lot of money doing something that we love. When we’re doing it at the high school level, you’re playing with your friends, you’re playing to represent your community, you’re not doing it for the money.

“For me, high school sports is the highest level where the purity is still there. You’re not doing it for any other reason than that passion to go out and compete and all the life lessons you can learn throughout the game and throughout athletics can carry on through life.

“Not every kid that plays high school sports is going to get a college scholarship or play professionally, but everything that they learn along the way is something they can take with them into that next position whether it’s teaching, whether it’s being a doctor or a lawyer, whatever it is, those are the things I treasure the most and am very thankful for high school sports.”

Perhaps without realizing it, Bailey had pinpointed what stood out to the throngs that followed his own standout high school career, whether it was 8,300 in Seymour or 41,000 at the RCA Dome.

Gardner articulated that as well.

”Two things stick out in my mind,” the longtime IHSAA and NFHS administrator said. “(Bedford) was down at the end of the game, and Damon refused to lose. That’s what happened.

”The other thing is, after it’s all over and Bedford is state champions for the first time in history, Damon goes into the crowd to hug his mom and dad.”

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