FREEPORT, Grand Bahama — In the absence of their chief rival from the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN), the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL) had no problems in running through the competition in the Tee Ball (six-and-under – 6U) Division at the Bahamas Baseball Association (BBA) National Championships at the Emera Baseball Complex in Freeport, Grand Bahama, over the weekend.
At the end of the day, the 6U Division was just an exhibition, and there was no overall champion crowned. Still, Freedom Farm won all four of their games quite easily. The Grand Bahama Little League (GBLL) was represented by two teams, GB Blue and GB Red, and there was also a team from the Legacy Baseball League.
Freedom Farm got past GB Blue on Friday, 28-8; defeated Legacy on Friday, 20-9; got past GB Red on Saturday, 19-8; and then defeated Legacy again, on Sunday, 14-4.
Freedom Farm Team Manager Sean Bain welcomed the challenge, and hopes that the competition is included in the nationals on a yearly basis.
“I think it is a very good thing. We’re glad that the BBA is thinking about adding tee ball to the nationals,” said Bain. “It’s a good opportunity for the boys to see a different level of play and different players. Tee Ball is the genesis of baseball so getting the kids interested at that level only could do wonders for the game here in The Bahamas.”
JBLN, which has one of the top tee ball programs in the country including a club team which finished the year unbeaten, decided against sending a 6U team to the nationals, apparently voting against exposing the young players to the level of aggressiveness and vulgarity that is evident, specifically among fans, in that kind of atmosphere.
The top team in tee ball at JBLN, the Green Parrot Bears, finished the year unbeaten, including two scrimmage wins over the top tee ball team from Freedom Farm.
BBA Vice President Terran Rodgers said a decision regarding a permanent place for the tee ball division at nationals will be made at their Annual General Meeting (AGM) in September.
“The play on the field was pretty good. I think that it’s clear that the Freedom Farm team is ahead of the other three teams that they played against,” said Rodgers. “The decision will be made between consultation with the different leagues. We’re going to get feedback on the exhibition and then go from there. If the leagues collectively want to go with tee ball, then we will do that. We’re here for the leagues so we’ll go with whatever is decided.”
Be that as it may, everything did not go as smoothly as planned in the tee ball division at the nationals. There was uproar between fans, confusion and dismay in the rules that were used and constant delays in a number of the games that were played.
Bain is of the view of more fundamentals being introduced to the tee ball division at the nationals.
“We have to be able to introduce more fundamental baseball – even at this level. I certainly understand that it is a development thing but there should be some level of structure and a system in place,” he said.
He said that they were disappointed that they didn’t get to play a team from JBLN which would have brought out the best out of them.
“We were looking forward to them coming. That is a long-standing rivalry, and we were looking forward to playing them. We’re a li’l disappointed that they didn’t come down, but hopefully things will work out in the future,” he said.
Rodgers said it is a work in progress, and something they will look very closely at going forward.
“You have to respect a league’s decision. It’s disappointing that you can’t get all teams involved at one time, but you have to respect a league’s decision when they don’t send a team in a particular division, especially when it’s not an official division. At the end of the day, JBLN decided that they won’t take part in tee ball at any tournament while other leagues decided to give it a try. Going forward, we will see what the leagues feel about tee ball and we will vote to determine if it stays in or goes out,” he said.
Will Rutherford from GBLL has been involved in baseball for nearly half of a century. He welcomed the introduction of the tee ball division, and is looking forward to more competition in the years to come.
“It felt good… we played well. You can see that the excitement level is very high at this age group. You can see the growth and you can see the enthusiasm. We’re very happy with the way they are coming along, and we embrace competition,” he said.
The BBA nationals will continue from June 20-23, with the 12-and-under (12U) division being contested between two fields in Eleuthera. The final three divisions, the eight-and-under (8U), 10-and-under (10U) and 14-and-under (14U) divisions will be contested from June 27-30, in New Providence, between the JBLN Field of Dreams Complex and the Freedom Farm Baseball League Park.
The popular 12U Division will feature seven teams going head-to-head for the national title and the right to represent The Bahamas at the Little League Caribbean and Latin American Championships, from July 13-20, in Willemstad, Curacao. The winner of that tournament will advance to the Little League World Series, from August 15-25, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, USA.
Hundreds of young baseball talent from throughout the country are taking part in the 2019 baseball nationals, the second one under the auspices of the BBA.