James Bailey ’93 grew up in Seattle loving baseball. When his mom moved to North Carolina in 1990, Bailey followed and immediately started a job with the Durham Bulls. His passion for minor league baseball, and love of the Bulls, inspired him to write his first novel, The Greatest Show on Dirt.
Bailey already had a job with the Bulls before he started his classes at NC State. When he moved to North Carolina he went to Northgate Mall in Durham and, as a big baseball fan, wandered into the Durham Bulls souvenir shop. After talking to the store manager, he left the store with a job selling souvenirs at the store in the mall.
Selling souvenirs quickly turned into a job in management. By his third season there, Bailey was managing the two souvenir stands located at the park, and helping out with other tasks.
“I did other things,” he says. “When it was such a small operation, everybody did a lot of different things. I remember running the scoreboard.”
For Bailey, working in minor league baseball is like being at home. “You spend so much time with all the people you work with, it really does become a family,” he says.
“There’s a part in the book where the main character gets called to cover and uncover the field because of weather. That was pretty much the case, everyone would be called and you’d all have to go down and cover it with the tarp.”
The family setting and his love of small-town leagues had the greatest impact on his decision to write The Greatest Show on Dirt.
“There’s something about the minor leagues that I’ve always liked,” he says. “It’s a more laid back small town kind of family atmosphere. Everything has a lot of character to it and the people are just so much more accessible.”
As a communication major, Bailey did not do much creative writing in college, focusing instead on news articles. As a senior, Bailey was an intern for Baseball America, and now he works for Thomson Reuters, a legal publishing company, in Rochester, NY.
“I never really took any classes in [creative writing]. Fifteen years ago I started writing another novel, it was terrible, but it was a good learning tool,” he says.
His lack of training in creative writing has not taken away from the novel’s success. It has gotten rave reviews from book critics and other baseball authors.