Softball standout joins another elite team

Published 10:21 pm Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bailey Key was 8-0 with a 0.00 ERA last spring as a seventh grader on Isle of Wight Academy’s junior varsity softball squad. She is serving as a page for the Virginia House of Delegates starting next week through early March. Bailey’s older brother Jackson was a page at the State Capitol in 2007 and 2008.

Eighth-grader Bailey Key already knows how to do an outstanding job under pressure.

On the softball field for Isle of Wight Academy and the Galaxy, a travel softball club based in Suffolk, Key is dependable in the pitcher’s circle or the batter’s box. She’s been a major player for her teams in conference, regional, state and national tournaments.

Starting Sunday in the state capital, Key, a Suffolk resident, starts an assignment with important responsibilities, unique expectations and a fast pace all to itself.

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Virginia’s General Assembly convenes its 2011 session on Wednesday, Jan. 12. Key is one of 37 students from across the Commonwealth accepted into the Assembly’s Page Program this year.

Starting with a few days of training before the session begins, Key will work an eight-week term as a page for the House of Delegates. Key was one of the best out of about 500 applicants for the program.

“I guess most people know me as being a softball player,” Key said. “That’s okay because I really do love playing sports. But being a page is a lot more important than what I have accomplished on the ballfield.”

Pages, 13-14 years old, assist delegates, the House’s staff and other legislative staff in daily duties while the Assembly is in session. Making deliveries around the Capitol, doing errands and fulfilling duties in various offices, including the Speaker of the House of Delegate’s Office and the Governor’s Office, are some of the responsibilities.

Delegate S. Chris Jones, representative for part of Suffolk and part of Chesapeake, nominated Key.

Bailey’s following in the footsteps of her older brother Jackson, who was a page in 2007 and a head page in 2008.

“He’s been coaching me on how to act and what to expect when I step on the House floor the first time.” Bailey said.

“The pages are invited to the governor’s mansion each year for a reception,” Key said. “So I’ll get to have my picture taken with Governor McDonnell. Very few kids get the chance to experience what I will see, hear and do over the next few months.”

The few perks are well worth it for the constant work the pages must do. The page duties are not in place of, rather in addition to, all their regular school work.

According to the General Assembly’s Web page on the Page Program, pages “must also make arrangements with their schools and teachers to maintain their schoolwork,” and “are responsible for arranging with their schools and teachers the preferred method of taking tests and exams.”

Pages stay in the Omni Hotel a short walk away from the State Capitol. The usual workday is 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There’s a mandatory study hall for two hours in the evening. From 9-10 p.m. is the only free time pages have during the work week.

The official description of the program details further mandates. Pages must “conduct themselves in an adult manner and should always be on their best behavior as they are representing their delegates, families and schools.”

“Requests for time off to participate in extracurricular activities will not be granted,” the General Assembly Web site says.

With the Galaxy since 2007, Key has a 94-21 pitching record and a .457 batting average. Between the Galaxy and the Lady Chargers, Key plays in the neighborhood of 100 softball games a year.

Last spring on the Lady Charger junior varsity team Key won eight games with a 0.00 earned run average. IWA went 14-0 in winning the Metro Conference. Key also plays volleyball for IWA.

She’s a straight A student and volunteered for Special Olympics, Operation Smile and Relay for Life.

“I’ll be ready when the (softball) season opens. Besides, pages are kept very busy running errands all over the Capitol complex. I’ll pretend I’m trying to turn a single into a double when I’m delivering a bill,” Key said.

Pages can go home on weekends but Key says the time likely will have to go to catching up on school work. Maybe a little softball can be squeezed in. Key didn’t get a say on the Assembly’s legislative calendar but her page term will conclude just in time for the start of IWA’s softball season.