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BBA baseball nationals set for Grand Bahama

A total of 29 teams will compete in the national tournament
The Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC) has come on board with the staging of the first Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) National Baseball Championships in Freeport, Grand Bahama, that start next week. Shown from left are Chairman of the Technical Committee Shane Albury, BBA President Sam Williams, Director of the National Tournament Committee Terran Rodgers, BOC President Romell “Fish” Knowles and Chief Umpire of the nationals Martin “Pork” Burrows. SHELDON LONGLEY

After more than two decades of the national baseball championships being held under the auspices of the Bahamas Baseball Federation (BBF), it now transitions over to the governing body of the sport in the country, the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA), creating a true national tournament for the hundreds of young men who will be in action.

The 1st BBA National Baseball Championships is now just a week away, set for June 21-24 at the Emera Baseball Complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama. Almost 400 young kids on 29 teams from nine leagues in the country will battle in the country’s biggest baseball tournament to crown the various national champions.

The nine leagues represented will be the host Grand Bahama Little League (GBLL), Legacy Baseball League and the Rising Stars Baseball League also of Grand Bahama; the Freedom Farm Baseball League, Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) and the Community Baseball League out of New Providence; the North and Central Abaco leagues out of Abaco; and the Eleuthera Baseball League out of Eleuthera.

A total of 83 games will be played over the four days of competition.

“It is with great pleasure that as president of the BBA, and on behalf of the executives, that I announce the hosting of our national championships,” said BBA President Sam Williams. “I wish to thank the former presidents of the Bahamas Baseball Federation – Greg Burrows, Craig Kemp, and mostly Teddy Sweeting – for their support and their work in the promotion and development of baseball in the country. The transition of this tournament from the auspices of the Bahamas Baseball Federation to the governing authority for baseball in the country speaks volumes for the future of baseball in The Bahamas.

“In the coming days, just under 400 young athletes will gather at the Emera Baseball Complex, and we have to thank the many sponsors, particularly the main sponsor the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), for being a part of this magnificent event. Also, thanks to the many league executives, the coaches and athletes, and by no means the least our parents and supporters. Today, baseball is a sport of choice for thousands of young men due in part to the many opportunities that our sport has to offer. Better days are ahead in baseball here in The Bahamas.”

Baseball factions in the country started to come together under the BBA in March of 2017, and the transitional process was completed this year when the Freedom Farm Baseball League agreed to be a part of the baseball nationals. Despite its inactivity for the better part of the past three decades, the Bahamas Olympic Committee (BOC), formerly the Bahamas Olympic Association (BOA), has always supported the BBA. BOC President Romell “Fish” Knowles said that the coming together under one umbrella could only positively advance the sport here in The Bahamas. With that, the Olympic body has thrown its support behind the national championships.

“The Bahamas Olympic Committee is pleased to be a part of the Bahamas Baseball Association National Championships. Hundreds of talented young men will be given an opportunity to participate in the sport of baseball. The opportunities that exist in baseball are just phenomenal, and we welcome those opportunities for the exposure of our young men. We want to thank the Bahamas Baseball Association for inviting us to be a part of this magnificent event. We thank the executives for the hard work and the dedication that they place in baseball in leading the young of our country.

“We would be remiss not to recognize the initial managers and hosts of this event, the Bahamas Baseball Federation. We want to thank them for their dedication and partnership in Bahamas Baseball. We are pleased that baseball in The Bahamas has amalgamated its efforts under one auspices and we encourage all member bodies to support the governing body for their particular sport so that we could move forward in harmony.”

BBA Vice President Terran Rodgers, once an executive in the BBF, said that it is all about moving the sport forward in The Bahamas and encouraging participation.

“I’m excited. I think this is an opportunity for us to do what is required under one umbrella,” he said. “Everyone is on board, and moving forward it’s all about developing the game of baseball in The Bahamas, and someday, having representation at the Olympics. It’s been an interesting journey thus far, and I think it’s going to get even more interesting as we move along.

“In the BBA, our mandate is to have baseball in every island that it is practical to have it in. If the other islands have what is required for us to assist them in developing a sustainable program, then we will gladly assist. The challenge is being able to create sustainable programs. There has to be volume, in terms of the kids, you would have to work with the kids and there would have to be interest from the adults. Once we begin to put our plan in place, you will definitely see improvement and more activity, but everyone has to buy into the plan.”

As far as the nationals are concerned, this year, it will be used as a springboard for the creation of an 18-and-under national team that will be traveling in November to begin the qualification process for the 2019 U18 Baseball World Cup in Panama. Also, the winning 12-and-under team from the nationals will have the opportunity to represent the country in the Little League Baseball Caribbean Regional Tournament in Puerto Rico.

The six divisions contested at the nationals are 8-and-under, 10-and-under, 12-and-under, 14-and-under, 16-and-under and 18-and-under.

“One of the priorities that we want to establish with the nationals is that when it is time to establish national teams to travel, it’s important for our kids to particulate,” said Rodgers. “We want to give the coaches who would be selected as national team coaches an opportunity to see all of the players at one time, battling on the field so that you could see all the skillset that you need to see. We are trying to use the nationals as the springboard for us in identifying the talent that is required to represent the country,” he added.

Chief Umpire Martin “Pork” Burrows said that officiating crew for the nationals will consist of umpires from three islands – New Providence, Grand Bahama and one from Eleuthera. He said that there is a good mixture of senior and youth umpires, and they will be well placed over the 83 games of the tournament.

“The officiating is going to be very keen,” he said. “We are strict with the rules, but we are going to let the kids play. I look forward to the crew doing a good job this year,” he said.

Chairman of the Technical Committee of the nationals Shane Albury said that they are looking forward to having a very fruitful and productive tournament.

“Everyone is excited and gearing up for the tournament,” he said. “Coming out of this, we will see how best we could incorporate senior baseball, and also look at having a national tournament for girls softball in the future. As far as senior baseball is concerned, we had a discussion with the minister to work out the logistics concerning the proposed Andre Rodgers Baseball stadium complex. We have been in contact with quite a few baseball organizations and I can tell you that they want to come to The Bahamas but we don’t have the facility up and running as yet, but we do have the support of the minister and we are moving forward with that. It’s an exciting time for baseball in the country, and we look forward to the staging of a very productive national tournament next week.”

The host Grand Bahama Little League and the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) have the most teams participating in the nationals with six each. The Freedom Farm Baseball League will carry five teams to the nationals.

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