Home Run Derby teams up with MLB Play Ball Initiative

Currently in its third year, the Don’t Blink Home Run Derby has now teamed up with the Major League Baseball (MLB) Play Ball Initiative to help with its annual kids camp set for Friday, January 3, 2020.

The announcement was made at a press conference last week Friday at the REV Headquarters.

The kids camp will kick off the derby weekend that will climax with the main event – the home run derby, which is set for Saturday, January 4, starting at noon. The main event is being dubbed the “Don’t Blink Charles Johnson Home Run Derby”, and the free camp will be held at the Paradise Harbour Club & Marina.

According to Todd Isaacs Jr., one of the organizers of the event, the MLB Play Ball Initiative is a branch of MLB that hosts kids camps around the world, particularly in the United States.

“This will be their first time coming down to The Bahamas and helping us put on a kids camp for the public,” Isaacs said. “We encourage all kids of all ages to come out whether you have baseball experience or no baseball experience. Come out and spend some time with the guys and learn a thing or two.”

Johnson is a former MLB catcher and World Series Champion with the Florida Marlins, now the Miami Marlins. He helped his team win the World Series title in 1997, and has four consecutive Gold Glove Awards, from 1995-1998.

“He saw a vision in the home run derby and he really wanted to partner with us to help our reach get out to the world. The important thing that we loved about his philosophy is that he wants to invest in the youth and the future. That is the biggest thing for us – investing in the young men in the society, giving them something positive to look forward to and potentially get involved in to change their lives,” Isaacs said.

Lucius Fox, another organizer of the event, said he feels like it is his duty to give back to the sport. He remembers training with Bahamian Albert Cartwright, a former minor league player, when he was younger.

“I remember when I was 11 or 12 years old, I would go out to Freedom Farm and the highlight of my day was training with Albert Cartwright – an ex-minor league player,” Fox said. “Every time he came into town, I was just so excited just to hit with him or even take some ground balls with him. Now that I’m in this position, I feel like it’s my duty to even touch one kid out there, I am just willing to do whatever I can to encourage them or just show them little tips that I didn’t know when I was that age. I just want baseball to grow tremendously throughout The Bahamas.”

Isaacs said: “Baseball is an avenue that kids could start at a young age and change their families’ lives as early as 16. For us being able to put this event on free to the public and everyone to come out and be with us and meet us in an intimate setting is super exciting.”

Isaacs said he remembers going to kids camps when he was growing up and said it was not about learning the skills or technique but more about being around the guys and feeling that he was one of them.

Isaacs added that Johnson, who has a lot of contacts in MLB, was able to connect with them through the play ball initiative. MLB personnel is expected to be here for the camp and the derby.

“They saw the home run derby and saw that we did the kids camp the day before and they were blown away by everything. The initial conversation went really well and after that they agreed to come down to The Bahamas. They are bringing boxes and boxes of stuff to give away to kids – play sets for the kids, bats, gloves,” Isaacs said.

Fox and Isaacs encouraged all the kids to come out and take advantage of the camp.

A total of 30 professional players, Bahamians and non-Bahamians, will be slugging it out during the derby at Montagu Beach. They will be split into two teams – Team Fox and Team Isaacs. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Sister Sister Support Group, the Cancer Society of The Bahamas and will also go toward Hurricane Dorian relief efforts.

Team Fox will be looking to get revenge after falling to Team Isaacs at the last event. The derby draft is slated for later this month.

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Simba French

Simba joined The Nassau Guardian in 2012 as a technical producer for Guardian Radio 96.9 FM. He joined the Editorial Department as a sports reporter in 2018. Simba has covered a wide range of sports stories, including the 2018 CARIFTA in Nassau, Bahamas. Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism

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