Injury Brings Bailey Dowling New Appreciation For Softball
A new appreciation and perspective for the game flows over Alabama’s Bailey Dowling ahead of the 2022 college softball season.
Dowling, who was a highly-touted freshman during the 2021 season, was ranked the No. 2 recruit in her class. The Illinois native quickly proved why she was near the top of her class and became an instrumental piece in Alabama’s early-season success this spring. Through the first five weeks of the season, Dowling had a team-leading six home runs and 25 RBI, while also boasting a .306 batting average.
“It's always been my dream to play here,” Dowling said. “After we'd warm up, I would sit in the dugout and just look at the field and think to myself, ‘I made it.’”
Dowling’s quick start to her freshman campaign came to an abrupt end on March 20, however, when she tore her ACL, MCL and meniscus. She underwent surgery on April 1 and is still currently on her rehab journey.
After her injury, an abundance of well wishes flooded Dowling’s direct messages from the Alabama softball community, alumni and friends. The support helped her understand the strong sense of community head coach Patrick Murphy and staff have built in Tuscaloosa and beyond.
“I just remember, Murph would always pull me aside on multiple days and would tell me how alumni texted him saying that they hope I feel better,” Dowling said. “I just thought that was really cool and just goes to show that Alabama really is a big family.”
Despite her injury, Dowling found a silver lining—being able to learn and view the game from a different perspective. She stated that viewing the game from the dugout allowed her to better understand different situations that can occur during a game, which she believes will suit her well when she is able to take the field again.
“I have way more knowledge about the game,” Dowling said. “I feel like I could have told you what everyone was thinking and where they were going to go before they even stepped on the field because I’ve watched them a million times.”
Dowling turned to teammate Claire Jenkins, who tore her ACL in the fall of 2019, for advice and guidance through the rehab process. Nearly a month after her season-ending injury occurred, Jenkins tore her MCL to end her own season. Dowling and Jenkins have been going through rehab together with a competitive nature.
“We've kind of been doing this together because she's only about two weeks behind me,” Dowling said. “Selfishly, I think that's kind of cool because I feel like we push each other.”
Along with Jenkins, Dowling also found help from Alabama alum, Ryan Iamurri. Iamurri, too, sustained a torn ACL during her collegiate career. Dowling and Iamurri have discussed the mental struggles that come with injuries and how to keep a positive perspective through them to continue to help the team. Due to her conversations with Iamurri, Dowling was excited when Iamurri announced she was becoming the volunteer assistant coach for the Crimson Tide for the 2022 season.
When asked about her level of excitement to return to the field on a scale of 1-10, she stated it was a 20. Dowling believes playing softball should be treated as a privilege and will not only be appreciative of the good days to come, but also the bad ones.
“Sometimes, if I have a bad day, I’ll be like, ‘It’s ok, I have tomorrow,’ but after being hurt I realized not everybody has a tomorrow,” Dowling said. “Now I won’t let certain things get to me as much as they did, but instead, I’ll just shake it off and be my happy self back out on the field.”