Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
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Four more Bahamians sign professional baseball contracts

Once again, through International Elite (I-Elite) Sports Academy, Bahamians will get an opportunity to further their baseball careers.

Just a couple of days into Major League Baseball’s (MLB) international signing period, four Bahamians have inked deals with professional clubs. Zion Bannister signed with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday at Bahamas Harvest Church, and Dax Stubbs, Ian Lewis and Everett Cooper signed with the Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins and Houston Astros respectively, on Wednesday at the Baha Mar Convention Center.

All four have passed through the doors of I-Elite – a private entity started by former players Geron Sands and Albert Cartwright two years ago as a means to give Bahamians an avenue to further develop their skills and position themselves for the next phase of their careers.

For Bannister, he said it was a dream come true.

“I feel really good about it. I was just wondering if I was still sleeping. I felt like somebody please don’t wake me up if this is a dream. I give all thanks to God. I just put all blood, sweat and tears into baseball, and now it’s paying off. I’m just thankful to God for this great opportunity. I know that whatever storm is out there, I’ll get over it. I just look forward to the opportunity,” he said.

The 17-year-old switch-hitting infielder spent the past two years at Nogae Sport Nation in San José de los Llanos, Dominican Republic. Prior to that, he attended West Nottingham Academy, a private boarding school in Colora, Maryland, USA. Bannister is a product of both the Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL) and the Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN).

“I feel amazing. I’m energized and ready to go. I know that God will continue to bless me physically and mentally and get me ready for the road ahead,” he said.

Bannister still has to undergo a medical exam for the Rangers organization before his contract is finalized, but he said he feels great and is ready to put in the work. His assignment will come from the Rangers organization after his physical exam is completed. He leaves for Arlington, Texas, for his physical exam early next week.

“We’re in a position where we’re just trying to celebrate this milestone accomplishment,” said Zion’s father Ray Bannister. “He worked hard for it, and now he’s reaping the rewards.”

The younger Bannister played with Freedom Farm up until Little League, and then spent one year at JBLN before heading off to high school in Maryland.

He took part in a baseball showcase at I-Elite complex late last year. Bannister also did travel ball with IMG Academy – an institution for dedicated players who want to play at the next level – in Bradenton, Florida.

Bannister is the third Bahamian to sign with the Rangers in the past two years, joining Keithron Moss, who plays rookie ball with the AZL Rangers in the Arizona League, and Courtney Smith, who plays rookie ball with the DSL Rangers in the Dominican Summer League. Leagues with the rookie classification play a shortened season. It is the lowest level of minor league baseball.

As for Stubbs, he is the second Bahamian to sign with the Orioles in the past two months, joining “Big” James Rolle. Lewis joins Anfernee Seymour in the Marlins’ organization, and Cooper is the first Bahamian to sign with the Astros.

MLB’s international signing period continues until June 15, 2020.

Sheldon Longley

Sports Editor at The Nassau Guardian
Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.
Education: College of The Bahamas, Associates in Accounting

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