Sometimes, opposites attract. In other instances, similarities are what create a bond. For a couple celebrating Valentine’s Day in Starkville this weekend, it’s more of the latter.
Cody Walker is a catcher for the Mississippi State baseball team. Katie Anne Bailey is a catcher for the Bulldog softball team. There are plenty of other reasons the two have been together for nearly a year and a half now, having met and started dating shortly after both arrived on campus to play their sports and position, but that common interest may have been the spark.
“When she said she was a catcher,” Cody recalls from their first meeting, “I was like, you know what, that’s awesome. It’s two different sports, but I thought it was awesome.”
‘Course, they probably shouldn’t have been talking at the time. In fact, they were supposed to be studying, fulfilling their required hours of study hall as student-athletes.
Then-freshman pitcher Vance Tatum (always looking out for his catcher) was in a study hall room with Cody, and being friends with Katie Anne, he told her to come their study spot and meet the baseball catcher. She did, of course, and returned to study with them (Cody, specifically) for the next several nights.
“I like to call it our first week of dating,” Katie Anne jokes now. “Just two hours of study hall sitting in there chatting and getting to know each other.”
As for the actual studying they were supposed to have been doing?
“It worked out, we’re still making good grades,” Cody said with a laugh.
It is a unique thing, though. It’s one thing when two athletes get together, a common occurrence, but it’s a bit more rare for them to play the same position on their teams at the same school. And while it’s a cool thing, it’s not the only thing. Not even the main thing. More than anything, Katie Anne says, it helped in the beginning when they met each other to have an easy conversation topic.
They still talk about it plenty, of course, sometimes discussing game situations, Katie Anne often picking Cody’s brain, and Cody will even occasionally volunteer as her pitcher in the batting cage when she wants to get some work in. Catching was their excuse for introductions, but it was interest in each other that made the meeting blossom into love.
“She’s got personality for days,” Cody says. “She lights up the room when she walks in.”
He was able to put his feelings into a few words. She needed a few more.
“One thing that really attracts me to him is just the way he thinks in general,” Katie Anne said. “I like the way he pieces things together and thinks about things before he does them … He has such a big heart and mind for his future plans and the family he wants to have that it makes me excited every single day.”
Aren’t they the sweetest?
The biggest struggle for the couple is, in a way, the same thing that brought them together. With each playing their sport and putting in the requisite practice time, study time, weightlifting time and sleeping time, it’s sometimes hard for them to see each other.
Their first real out-on-the-town date didn’t even come until they’d been talking to each other for a month, and not knowing when his next good chance would be, it was that night that Cody asked Katie Anne to be his girlfriend.
Because their seasons run at the same time, they don’t often get to see each other play, though they make a point to catch up as soon as they can at the end of gamedays. First, Katie Anne says, they ask each other how they did behind the plate as a catcher. Second, they ask how the other did at the plate as a batter.
Because they park in the same lots, it’s not a surprise for either of them to find a note on their car on gamedays
“Good luck, babe, hope you have a great game. Ball out,” one of them reads.
But, when time allows, they do make an effort to get away from the world of hitting and catching.
Said Katie Anne, “Every chance I get, I say, ‘Hey, let’s go on a date tonight. Let’s throw on some real clothes instead of our athletic maroon and white gear and let’s go out and have a night about us.’”
This Valentine’s Day, with both softball and baseball hosting doubleheaders, they may not have that chance, though at least they’re both in Starkville. Last year, Katie Anne was in Florida with softball, nixing any possible Valentine celebrations. So, when their games end Saturday night, they’ll each ask how the other did, and if the game ends early enough, they may even be able to sneak in a late dinner or a movie.
But the lack of celebration is fine with them. This is what they do. Baseball was his first love, anyway, and softball was hers. In that regard, they understand each other. But it doesn’t mean the day will be completely lacking in the romance department.
Win or lose, Katie Anne says she’s got a little surprise planned either way.
“Just something that says ‘I love you.’ That’s what Valentine’s is all about. It doesn’t have to be a big Christmas present. Just something sweet and simple that says ‘I love you.’”