The past two months have been tough on baseball enthusiasts in The Bahamas as local baseball seasons have ceased and leagues have shut down all activities. The Freedom Farm Baseball League (FFBL), in particular, has been on a hiatus since March 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to league’s senior director and commissioner Clarence McKenzie, they have not canceled the season as yet. He said they are hoping to resume play at the end of May once the “all clear” sign is given by the government of The Bahamas and health officials.
“We have certain windows that we have in place. We hope that we can resume this season. We have indicated some dates of May 30 if we get the ‘all clear’ to continue where we left off. As you know, we normally finish our season in May and have the nationals in June. However, we have decided that we will be canceling all summer travel – we have indicated that to the parents. That will give us the flexibility to play our season during the summer months,” McKenzie said.
If the May 30 target date passes, McKenzie added that they will look at June 30 with a condensed season and hopefully going straight to the playoffs and championships.
Then, if the “all clear” sign is not given in time for play in the summer months, they will look at canceling the season altogether. In addition, they will look to stage fall baseball in September and October and then start the new season in November as opposed to January 2021. These are a few of the options that the league will be looking at. The Junior Baseball League of Nassau (JBLN) has also expressed an interest in continuing their season in the summer.
Moving forward, McKenzie said Freedom Farm has formed a hygiene committee that comprises of health care professionals which will make recommendations to the board. They will look at how to make Freedom Farm safer from a health standpoint. He said this pandemic is changing the way baseball progresses.
The league was set to wrap up its regular season this week and then begin its playoffs and championships. The season was at the halfway mark when the league executives decided to suspend play.
The pandemic also forced Freedom Farm to cancel its second invitational tournament that was slated to take place this past Easter holiday weekend. The invitational tournament was set to see a number of local teams and leagues engaged in play, as well as teams from countries such as Curacao and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Summer travel of eight to 10 teams from Freedom Farm to the U.S. had to be canceled. The Bahamas Baseball Association’s (BBA) National Championships, which were set for Freeport, Grand Bahama, in June, had to be canceled as well.
McKenzie said they were monitoring the novel coronavirus before it got to the western world. Two weeks prior to the suspension of play, they implemented the “no contact” rule where there were no high-fives, no shaking of hands, no greeting of umpires before the game and no post-game handshakes.
He said he is looking forward to the commencement of play at Freedom Farm again, but he knows that it will be different after the passing of this pandemic.
“We hope this thing blows over fast because we look forward to continuing our season. We understand that things will be different and this [will] have a long-term impact on how we operate, but we’re optimistic.”
In addition, McKenzie said they will be looking at professional setups like those of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Babe Ruth Organization so that they will develop ideas on how to proceed going forward.
He said that coaches have kept their players involved although the fields are closed, sending videos on YouTube of swinging, fielding and general baseball drills. He said there are also strength and conditioning programs depending on the age of the players.
The Freedom Farm Baseball League consists of eight divisions, made up of 44 teams. There are close to 700 players registered in the league.
The league has been instrumental in positioning players to go off to college and on to the professional ranks. They are also very successful on the national stage.