NORTH LITTLE ROCK — Central Arkansas Christian senior Bailey Zini is getting a head start on her future.
Bailey, who will study education while on a softball scholarship at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge next year, amassed 81.75 hours over the winter as a volunteer coach for the 12-and-under Arkansas Pride travel softball team, despite her own obligations as a CAC Lady Mustang and Arkansas Pride 18-and-under player, and as an all-state volleyball player for CAC.
“She left high school practice many school nights and drove for an hour to work with this team,” her mother and CAC softball coach Amy Zini said. “Her [Arkansas Pride] coach, Rachel Baucom Daniels, started this new younger team and has volunteered countless hours coaching Bailey, and this is Bailey’s way of ‘paying it forward.’”
The 18u Arkansas Pride, based out of Menifee, has traveled nationally, often to showcase tournaments in hopes of having its players recognized by college coaches. Bailey has played for the Pride for several years.
“I gave them the option of helping out with these younger kids to give back to the sport a little bit,” Daniels said. “In these showcase environments, you have to have that name established, and they’ve been able to establish such a good foundation. With this older group, we’ve established the name, and now with the younger group, we want to continue that.”
Bailey said the experience has confirmed her idea of following in her mother’s coaching footsteps.
“I think I’d be really, really good at it,” Bailey said. “After this experience, I know how to work things better, and I’ve learned a lot about how to communicate with the athletes. I think I’m really good at communicating with them, all the visual and kinesthetic learners.”
Bailey, 17, is the younger child and only daughter of Michael and Amy Zini. Bailey’s older brother, Braden, is one of the first two CAC wrestlers to sign collegiate letters of intent to wrestle. Jason Kidder signed with Lyon College; Braden will start his freshman year later this month at Williams Baptist, where his little sister will join him next year.
“Ever since I was little, my parents got me doing a lot of sports,” Bailey said. “I used to do swimming and basketball, and soccer when I was little. I’ve always done softball. I didn’t start volleyball until seventh grade.”
Although she earned all-state volleyball honors as a libero last fall and will lead the Lady Mustangs this season, softball is her main sport.
“It’s really just the best thing I’m good at,” she said. “I love it a lot, too. I’ve played the sport since I was 4, and I have a lot of fun doing it.”
Catcher is Bailey’s main position, but she’s also played some at third base for the Pride and pitched for the Lady Mustangs. Her high school stats were impressive even in this year’s weather-plagued spring: a .500 batting average in the lead-off position (.538 in conference play); a .562 on-base percentage (.625 in conference); 28 hits (six doubles, one triple and one home run); 17 RBIs; 21 runs scored; two stolen bases; and a .987 fielding percentage.
The Zinis are a close family.
“Normally, you think having a parent as your coach would be a lot of drama, but I like having my mom as my coach,” Bailey said.
The fall is her busiest time of year, with volleyball and fall softball, as well as the volunteer coaching.
Daniels said Bailey has been “a huge help,” especially with the young catchers.
“I let her have them,” Daniels said. “She’s been like an assistant to me. She’s at the majority of the practices when she doesn’t have a conflict, and she helps with everything — catching, hitting, fielding. She does it all. She’s one I don’t mind putting the younger kids around. I know she’s going to give them great advice. She’s worked camps for us, and she’s such a great influence on those kids and a pleasure to be around.”
Daniels called Bailey “an awesome kid.”
“She’s very positive, and it’s just fun to watch her,” Daniels said. “Sometimes she can explain things where they get it better than I can. She gets right in there with them and shows them.”
Bailey also works as a court monitor at Altitude trampoline park, so that experience, too, will help her as she heads for a future in education.
Bailey, who sports a 3.8 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society and Beta Club at Mustang Mountain, is also involved with various Mustang Missions and logged 75 other community-service hours during the 2014-15 school year in several areas.
“I’m amazed at her as a young woman. I truly am,” Amy Zini said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am, honestly. She’s just a good-hearted person. She doesn’t have to try to be a good person; she just truly is.”
Bailey’s nickname is “Bug.”
“When I was a baby, my papa liked to fish, and one day they were fishing, and he looked at me and decided I looked like a fishing lure called a Chug Bug,” she said. “Then I grew out of Chug Bug, and it just became Bug. Nobody calls me Chug Bug anymore.”
Before long, however, they’ll be calling her Coach.