Selma High water polo player Bailey Baker is only 5-foot-4, but says she’s always had “awkwardly long arms.”
“I thought I might as well put them to good use by being a goalkeeper,” Baker said. “Nobody else tried out for it, so I became the goalkeeper.”
Baker was on the junior varsity team as a freshman and then started on varsity last season. Now she's settled in at the position and was in the goal for an 18-8 season-opening win against Madera South.
“I like it because I can see the whole game and help my teammates on where they should be and who should be driving,” Baker said. “I like being in one place the whole game.”
Goalkeepers, like football cornerbacks, need to have short memories. Baker does.
“I tell myself it’s 0-0 – I want to play like it’s 0-0, even if I do give up four goals in the first quarter," she said. "Last year, when I got brought up to varsity, I was really nervous and Morgan Wells told me to just play like it was 0-0, and that really helped me.”
Baker paid heed, making the All-Central Sequoia League first team and being named the league goalkeeper of the year.
"She had big shoes to fill with the graduation of all-Valley goalie Bibi Chavez," Selma coach Harold Wood said. "She stepped right up."
Wood is counting on the junior to keep his young team competitive while it gains experience.
Having some smarts doesn’t hurt. Baker has a 4.0 grade-point average, and that should rise, as she is now taking three advanced placement classes.
She is also on the swim team and enjoys helping coach the Aqua Bears youth swim team. She's a stellar sister to 13-year-old Abigail Baker, who is a star swimmer. Outside of swimming, she roots for her favorite professional football team, the New England Patriots.
“I like to watch football and sports in general with my dad [Paul],” Baker said. “I’m a Patriots fan, and people give me a hard time about being on the bandwagon, but I’ve rooted for them since I was little. I like their quarterback and they’re a good team to watch, even though they had that thing about deflating the ball a few years ago.”
Kathy Baker, the teen's mom, is naturally biased but conveyed her thoughts anyway.
“She’s a great kid and a great friend to her peers,” she said. "She’s really perceptive and intelligent. She wants to do well, especially in school, where she has high standards.”
Around the house, the 16-year-old Baker is known for suddenly disappearing when there are chores, much to the dismay of her sister, the teen's mom said.
"Somehow, she manages to get her sister to do things for her like get her water without resistance," Kathy said.
In the pool, it's all Bailey though — and that's the way she likes it.