Legacy of Paul Bailey Field shines on at Mid-Prairie

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 7/7/24

Minutes after Mid-Prairie finished off an 11-0 win against Washington at Paul Bailey Field early on the day of June 29, Golden Hawks coach Kyle Mullet stood in the dugout and glanced proudly at the …

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Legacy of Paul Bailey Field shines on at Mid-Prairie


Minutes after Mid-Prairie finished off an 11-0 win against Washington at Paul Bailey Field early on the day of June 29, Golden Hawks coach Kyle Mullet stood in the dugout and glanced proudly at the field.

One of his senior-class players, Bowen Burmeister, had just pitched his first career no-hitter.

The Golden Hawks had put on a dominating offensive display, scoring all 11 runs in just two innings.

None of this almost happened.

“Glad to get this game in today,” Mullet, a Golden Hawks alum, said. “This right here shows, this is a perfect example of the money that our community donated and put into this field. If we had our old field, we would not be playing today.”

Storms had hit Southeast Iowa the night before and into the early morning. The Golden Hawks and Washington Demons had scheduled a game for 10 o’clock Saturday morning. But there was so much to be done. The game got pushed back to 11. The field was prepared. And they played.

Another field? You might need hip boots or a rowboat.

“You have a nice facility, a nice infield, this is what happens,” Mullet said. “You’re able to play these games like this.”

More than a year ago, a community fundraising project of more than $100,000 paved the way for extensive improvements of nearly $400,000. New sod, new infield, new netting, new fences, new backstop, new press box, new seating, new everything.

Wednesday night, the Golden Hawks will play their last home game of the season against Burlington Notre Dame, two teams that have been ranked among Iowa’s best in Class 2A and 1A, respectively, this summer. Around 7 o’clock, the Golden Hawks outfielders will run out from their dugout that is tucked at the bottom of a hill in a natural amphitheater-style setting and to an outfield that includes the scoreboard with a sign underneath it: Paul N. Bailey Field.

The name means something.

Bailey was a farmer in the Bayertown area and the son of Archie Bailey, who turned down an offer from the New York Yankees in the Babe Ruth era to help take care of the family farm back home in Bayertown.

Paul Bailey started the Mid-Prairie Athletic Boosters after the school district was created in 1960. He was president for a decade, which is when the first baseball field was built. After his death, Bailey’s memorial fund was directed to help Mid-Prairie.

His legacy marched on.

Paul’s sons, Tom and Kirk Bailey, played baseball and every other sport at Mid-Prairie.

The next generation, the same.

The generation after that generation, the same.

Ella Groenewold, a great granddaughter of Paul Bailey, is a 2023 Mid-Prairie graduate who excelled in volleyball and track. Ella’s brother, Cade, was a soccer player and cross country runner.

Ella’s mom, Kara (Bailey) Groenewold, and Kara’s brother, Josh, both attended Mid-Prairie and played sports along with an extended family of cousins.

Yes, the name means something.

“It is a great source of pride for our family to have the ballfield named after our father and grandpa,” Kara Groenewold said. “This program is such a quality program and represents our school district and community so well. It teaches kids how to be good teammates and good leaders. It provides a wonderful source of entertainment for the community on summer nights.”

On those summer nights, hundreds of spectators stake out their spots atop the large hills on both the first base and third base sides of the field. Next to the concession stand, located at the top of the hill on the first base side, the aroma of porkburgers, hamburgers and hot dogs from a large grill captures the moment.

When a foul ball makes its way toward the hill, kids run after it. And then it goes back into play.

Behind home plate, a new press box featuring updated wireless PA functions worthy of a professional baseball stadium, is surrounded by elevated seating sections.

For those of you who have ever traveled east during the summer, Bailey Field is remarkably similar to ballfields used for the Cape Cod Baseball League, which features the nation’s top college baseball stars in hometown settings.

“It’s awesome,” said Burmeister, a Coe College commit who grew up here. “Our fans are always showing up on the hill. Holds a special place in my heart.”

As it does for the Bailey family.

“The venue is now just amazingly beautiful,” Kara Groenewold said. “It really is a testament to the determination and work ethic of our community. And to be there on a summer night, under the lights, and see our grandpa’s name out there, it’s really almost a magical feeling.”

Field of dreams?

It’s right here.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at bowkerpaul1@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Mid-Prairie, baseball, Paul Bailey Field, Kyle Mullet, Kara Groenewold